A tributary of the Alpine Rhine, the Landquart, whose origins spring from the Silvretta Glacier, is still too young and fast flowing to support boats as it tumbles past the Klosters Arena (unless you’re into white water rafting). Circumnavigating this obstacle, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra cruised into the hall for a fascinating Klosters Music programme framed by two suites of Handel’s Water Music. Directed by Gottfried von der Goltz, the ensemble was buoyant, strings as light as air, bolstered by piquant woodwinds and stirring brass to merit the concert’s title of “A Rousing Celebration”. 

The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
© Marcel Giger

The Freiburg Baroque is simply one of the most polished period instrument ensembles in the world, and has been since its creation in 1987. They played standing, von der Goltz an engaging director, his knee bends and lunges urging on the ensemble. The strings were tightly knit, impeccably tuned and highly responsive to each other’s playing. The sense of engagement was palpable, the beaming smiles of Corina Golomoz, principal viola, and Stefan Mühleisen, principal cello, infectious, all grounded by the wonderfully grainy double bass of James Munro. Von der Goltz’s solos were nimble, while Thomas Meraner phrased his oboe soliloquy in the First Suite elegantly. 

Gottfried von der Goltz
© Marcel Giger

In the Second, trumpets joined the brass artillery, placed on the opposite side of the stage to the chortling horns to create an antiphonal effect. Kudos to the two natural horn players who somehow negotiated Handel’s treacherous writing without employing hand-stopping for fine-tuning, resulting in joyous rasps and whoops emerging from the coils of plumbing. Heaven knows how the players coped – in the open air on a moving barge on the River Thames – at the 1717 premiere. 

Francesco Corti and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
© Marcel Giger

Between the two Handel suites came three more Baroque works, two of them classics. Francesco Corti gave a beautifully shaped account of Bach’s Keyboard Concerto no. 1 in D minor that made the piece sing. I am usually resistant to Bach’s harpsichord works, easily lost in their mathematical formulae and pneumatic precision, but the way Corti brought out the inner voices and sustained lyrical phrases – on an instrument where the sound decays almost instantly – was most persuasive. There was virtuosity aplenty, especially in the cascading trills, but this was never a performance about mere show. Corti’s Rameau encore was the perfect palate cleanser. 

Francesco Geminiani’s Concerto grosso, also in D minor, is a series of variations on the popular La Follia dance tune. Von der Goltz’s playing was trim and graceful, Johannes Ötzbrugger hypnotic on the Baroque guitar, although a greater sense of abandon would have been welcome. 

Javier Zafra and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
© Marcel Giger

The least known work in the Freiburgers’ programme was Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto in E flat major, RV 483, a wonderful opportunity for principal bassoonist Javier Zafra to shine in the solo spotlight. With his soft, mellow tone – in contrast to the grittier pungency of other bassoonists – Zafra revelled in the Larghetto, almost operatic in its plangency. Outer movements were adroitly handled, the finale full of jocular acrobatics. My Campaign for More Vivaldi Bassoon Concertos in concert programmes continues apace.

Mark’s accommodation was funded by Klosters Music; his travel was funded by Switzerland Tourism