Visions of the universe blend with ethereal strains of a string orchestra in Australian Baroque’s latest show Space Music at the Girls School on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday this week.
“In the Baroque period and earlier than that, (art and science) were one and the same. If you were a musician you were also a philosopher and a scientist and all those things were not separate disciplines like they are now,” director Helen Kruger explains.
“We thought we’d do something together because my husband is an astrophysicist, and he mapped part of Venus for NASA, so he’s doing the narration through the show, about NASA space discoveries, and he’s also put together all the images and film because we’re doing this at the Girls School which is also a cinema.
“It happens to be great acoustics for a Baroque orchestra also. There’s probably no other cinema in Perth that’s got good acoustics.”
It’s a one-hour program delayed by COVID lockdowns, which prompted the group to double-up each day when audiences were restricted to 50 per cent. Now that’s past, there are plenty of tickets to sell.
“We start with the Big Bang, and we have music by Jean-Fery Rebel, his Chaos, from The Elements,” Kruger says. “It’s an astonishing, very contemporary-sounding piece of music.
“It starts with the first cluster chord in music history,” she says, referring to a chord with complex harmonies woven around multiple adjacent notes.
“And then we cover the Rocky Planets, the Gas Giants and the Sun – we have this beautiful aria by Thomas Arne from his Morning Cantata.
“It’s about the sunrise and when it’s synched with images it’s absolutely astonishing.
“Then we have a set on galaxies, and then we finish on the Moon.”
It will be Australian Baroque biggest ensemble to date, with authentic instruments including a full string orchestra, two Baroque bassoons, two flutes and two oboes.
“We’ve even got Baroque timpani, so for Perth it’s really an amazing thing to have a 25-piece Baroque orchestra, on Baroque instruments,” Kruger says.
“We’ve got a concerto by Wassenaer, very little-known, and we finish with a chaconne by Jean-Philippe Rameau. All operas ended with a chaconne, because after all the drama has passed the chaconne is like the instant gratification, it overwhelms you with beautiful, luscious sounds, and that’s one from his opera Dardanus that’s particularly lush.
“And for Deep Space we’re doing a work by Perotin which our harpsichordist Stewart Smith has arranged, and that’s much earlier, I think 12th century. It’s so stunning, for soprano, flutes and strings, it just captures the aspect of Deep Space so well.”
The program rounds out with music by Biber, Corelli and Handel.
“It’s all that is amazing about suspension in Baroque music,” Kruger says. “Long, lush lines and really sumptuous.”
Space Music is at the Girls School, 2 Wellington Street, at 6.30pm and 8.30pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a shorter 45-minute program for families on Saturday at 10.30am and 12.30pm. Tickets at https://www.australianbaroque.com.