FREDONIA - Once again, the sublime sounds of J.S. Bach and those whose music was influenced by his, echo through the 1891 Fredonia Opera House.
The cause is the 16th annual Bach and Beyond Festival, the opening concert of which was performed Friday evening.
Once again the International Bach Soloists are performing the three concerts of the festival, under the baton of the Artistic Director, Grant Cooper. The quality of the music is as good as ever.
The good news for concertgoers is that the concerts have been tightened up and there is a new energy which goes through the performance. The amount of time which it takes between musical works has been reduced by the simple remedy of having each of the musicians carry his own music stand onto the stage, before each work of music.
The amount of discussion and explanation of music has been reduced, also, causing the evening to flow.
The evening began with ''Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 1 In D,'' by Francesco Geminiani, who was two years younger than Bach. Atypically of concerto grossi, except for a few very short passages, there was only a solo violin, operating in conversation with the rest of the ensemble. Concert Mistress Julie Leven performed that role with elegance, her energetic bowing resembling sword play.
There followed ''Concerto in F,'' by Bach, himself, which featured oboist Cheryl Bishkoff. Her familiar technical mastery was accompanied with a visible musicality, in which one could see her take mastery of a phrase, then hand it off to be developed by the ensemble, then reclaim it, not with corny overtness, but with subtle elegance.
Following intermission, a trio made up of Julie Leven, harpsichordist Karl Paulnack, and cellist Bryan Eckenrode offered ''Sonata Opus VI, No. 12,'' by Pietro Locatello, which lived up to Cooper's description as being ''like drinking a very bubbly soda, with bubbles running all through you.''
Soprano Janet Brown sang my personal favorite work from the program, the work of Georg Frideric Handel: ''Cantata Manca pur quanto sai.'' It was one of those familiar baroque laments in which a young woman encourages her beloved to go on hurting her, with his lies and deceptions, because she loves him so much that making him happy with her suffering gives her satisfaction.
Ms. Brown's beautifully phrased soprano swept from near silence to great power, with flawless decorations at the very top of her range.
The evening ended with Bach's ''Orchestral Suite, No. 1,'' which Cooper stated was the ancestor of the classical symphony, and responsible in his opinion for German supremacy in music, for much of history.
The work consisted of an overture, followed by a number of dance movements, which the ensemble performed elegantly and in good unison. Especially fine were the performances of the two oboists and of bassoonist Laura Koepke.
The result was a most pleasant and enlightening evening of music. Two more concerts remain, in this year's festival: this evening at 8 p.m. and tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m.