Local lovers of Baroque music have been bombarded lately by a wave of European-based, period-instrument ensembles with such ominous names as the Academy of Ancient Music. Undaunted, the home-grown quintet Musical Offering (now there's a friendly title) continues to present spirited playing on modern instruments.
Saturday night at Calvary Presbyterian Church in South Pasadena, the CalArts-based group presented a refreshing survey of works by Bach, Handel and Domenico Scarlatti.
Mixing exquisite music-making with witty and informative spoken introductions, the players--violinist Kathleen Lenski, oboist Allan Vogel, bassoonist Kenneth Munday, cellist David Speltz and harpsichordist Owen Burdick--served as effective spokesmen for 18th-Century music on any instrument.
The program consisted of chamber works by Handel, some sonatas by Scarlatti (dashed off brilliantly by Burdick) and four excerpts from Bach's "Art of the Fugue."
The latter exemplified the ensemble's successful formula: Vogel (bowing to authentic performance with an oboe d'amore) gave introductions; then, the players--minus Burdick--made these contrapuntal exercises sound warm and inviting rather than dry and formal.
In encore, the quintet gave a moving performance of Bach's final, deathbed-dictated chorale.