A holiday music feast at Washington’s HQ in Morristown

The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey performs at the Washington's Headquarters Museum. Photo by Linda Stamato
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By Linda Stamato

A full house greeted the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey and pianist extraordinaire Peter Toth in a full, satisfying program on Saturday afternoon at the Washington’s Headquarters Museum  in Morristown.

Welcomed by Jude Pfister, the director of cultural affairs at the museum, the audience was treated immediately to a rousing rendition of  Variations on God Save the Queen, performed by the orchestra, followed by an opportunity to join in with “the American version” of Beethoven’s tour de force. The audience joined in, vigorously.

An Impromptu in F Minor by Franz Schubert, performed exquisitely by Toth, followed.

Maestro Robert Butts of the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, Dec. 7, 2019. Photo by Linda Stamato

Maestro Robert Butts, conductor of the Baroque Orchestra,  treated the audience to a fulsome introduction to what was to come: The background, the circumstances, the period.

First up, we sampled the creative genius of a female composer, a rare appearance, not for lack of talent or production, but gender discrimination, plain and simple.

The maestro introduced the audience to the skill and promise of the 18th century Italian composer Maria Theresa Agnesi. Her Overture was lively and spirited, just short of the Baroque period.

Soprano Timothy Maureen Cole moved the audience with two pieces, Sei conforto, a soothing, melodious balm by a woman who has just murdered her enemy.

Jude Pfister of the Washington’s Headquarters Museum, Dec. 7, 2019. Photo by Linda Stamato

Later, it was Handel’s L’adoro pupolle, sung with verve and delicacy. It was especially lovely listening to Cole after learning from Maestro Butts that the piece she had sung was drawn from a 17th century manuscript found by Jude Pfister, in the museum’s collection.

An original Alessandro Scarlatti, discovered in Morristown, sung by the principal soprano of the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey… quite a moment!

The program shifted dramatically to modern with Butts’ own composition, A Foggy Walk. And what a shift it was. Nicely paced, evoking a quiet, meandering walk in, yes, a fog, picking up the pace, perhaps as the sun peeks through, sounds evoking sights of squirrels, maybe, scurrying across the path of the meandered, and then returning to the moody pace of fog.

The first half of the program concluded with the rich, deep sounds of the flute and oboe on Johann Friedrich Fasch’s Concerto for Flute and Oboe.

Pianist Peter Toth. Photo by Linda Stamato

Following intermission, Toth performed Handel’s Chaconne in G, a lovely rendition, followed by an astonishing performance of Chopin’s Andante spianato et Grance Polonaise Brilliante.

Toth masterfully interpreted the majesty of the piece, at once tender soulful and almost fluttering, and forceful, commanding strength.

The audience rose with resounding applause, moved by this superb pianist.

What a gift to the community this afternoon was. It was made possible with support from Morris Arts and the Washington Association of New Jersey.

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