Following heavier programs earlier in the Festival, Kathryn Stott described Bellissimo Baroque as “sorbet”, but this concert of Italian – and Italian inspired – baroque music was a meal in itself. Neal Peres Da Costa won the prize for most notes, opening the concert solo before he was joined by an ever increasing number of musicians as the evening wore on. He brought a stylish verve to the outer movements of JS Bach’s Italian Concerto – the harpsichord offering fascinatingly different textures for those used to hearing this music on piano – but it was his spare, haunting rendition of the Andante middle movement that was the real highlight.

Australian Festival of Chamber MusicLiza Ferschtman and Jennifer Stumm at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. Photo © Andrew Rankin

Peres Da Costa was soon joined by American violist Jennifer Stumm, who brought an incredibly sonorous, mellow timbre to madrigals by Monteverdi, with lute-like textures from the harpsichord, culminating in the duet Pur ti miro from the final scene of The Coronation of Poppea with Dutch violinist Liza Ferschtman.

Roberto Carrillo-Garcia brought character, and impressive agility to Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord in D Minor, a barefooted Timo-Veikko Valve joining the continuo on cello. The Largo was particularly exquisite, especially in passages of octave unison between harpsichord and gamba.

Sally Walker (best known for her flute playing) joined Peres Da Costa and Carrillo-Garcia to round out the concert’s first half with Arcangelo Corelli’s La Follia variations for recorder and harpsichord. Some of Walker’s long-breathed virtuosic passages had the audience in awe, and while there were occasional notes that didn’t quite speak properly, she brought a beautiful sense of line to the variations.

La Folia returned in the second half of the concert, given over entirely to Vivaldi, with Ferschtman and Goldner violinist Dimity Hall teaming up with Carillo-Garcia and Peres Da Costa for the Red Priest’s La Follia Trio Sonata, RV63, giving the work a bold, even spikey at times, reading that alternated lyricism with furious intensity.

The keen sound of British oboist Rachael Clegg met the liquid bassoon of Estonian Martin Kuuskmann in the Concerto for Oboe, Bassoon and Strings, RV545, in a display of breakneck virtuosity. Indeed, there was a few moments where Kuuskmann seemed to drop a note or two, but he kept pace with Clegg in what was ultimately an exciting performance.

The intensity ramped up even further in a performance of Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins and Strings, RV580, that bristled with energy throughout, before Robert Oetomo stunned the audience with a performance of the Concerto for Flautino, RV443, on vibraphone. The percussionist, brought on at short notice to replace an injured Timothy Constable, gave a crisp, spotless performance – the sweetness of the tone evoking Stott’s musical sorbet – with the central Largo taking on a dream-like quality before the virtuosic, ringing joy of the finale capped off a fine evening.

The Australian Festival of Chamber Music runs in Townsville until August 4. Read Limelight‘s full coverage here.