Three father figures of the period-performance movement, Frans Brueggen, Gustav Leonhardt and Anner Bylsma, were heard for the first time in this area as an ensemble--individually they have been frequent visitors--Thursday in Ambassador Auditorium.
While the three gentlemen from the Netherlands are anything but pedantic in their musical approaches, the program's notion smacked more of classroom than concert hall: the early--very early--sonata in Italy.
Not that sonata actually connoted a musical form here; rather, the term was used as the Italians used it then, to differentiate between what was sung, cantata, and what was played, sonata .
Which hardly eliminated the problem of differentiating one composer from another. When the choice is between such early 17th-Century nonentities (their presumed pioneering efforts notwithstanding) as Bartolomeo Montalbano, Dario Castello and Giovanni Battista Riccio, the ears soon begin to glaze over.
In all, about 15 brief works were played, most of them expendable save for the skill of the executants. Brueggen showed himself as ever to be a supreme virtuoso on a variety of recorders: treble, alto and tenor.
His work was central to the proceedings, being heard in two-thirds of the pieces, including a sonata by Corelli, the evening's longest (at about eight minutes) and latest (ca. 1700) component, and the only one in multiple-movement form.
Musical substance emerged in harpsichordist Leonhardt's sternly controlled playing of a darkly dissonant toccata by Michelangelo Rossi; the alternating long, plaintive lines and flying spiccatos of a dancey ricercar by Domenico Galli, skillfully and colorfully executed by cellist Bylsma, and a showy triple-time fancy that may have been by Marco Pesenti--although hardly matching its description in the inadequate program notes--offering treble recorder and cello a strenuous, rewarding workout.
In sum, however, the pall of academicism hung heavy.