Academy of Ancient Music

Bach
Concerto in C minor for oboe and violin, BWV1060
Concerto in D minor for two violins, BWV1043
Handel
Concerto Grosso in G, Op.6/1
Concerto Grosso in D minor, Op.6/10
Vivaldi
Concerto in B flat for two violins, RV524
Concerto in B flat for oboe and violin, RV548

Rachel Podger (violin)

Franck de Bruine (oboe)

Academy of Ancient Music
Pavlo Beznosiuk (violin)


Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 24 January, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

This colourful and varied concert was designed to highlight both the ambiguous etymology of the word ‘concerto’ (harmony or disagreement?) and the many varied forms which the concerto itself took during the 18th-century, both functionally and stylistically. And, indeed, the programme was arranged so as to further facilitate our comparing both the contrasting styles of the same composer (in the case of Handel, where a concerto grosso in a major key began the first half of the concert and one in a minor key the second half) and those of Bach and Vivaldi (the first half featured Bach’s concerto for oboe and violin followed by Vivaldi’s for two violins, whereas the second followed the Handel with Vivaldi’s concerto for oboe and violin, finishing with Bach’s concerto for two violins). So a kind of mirror image really. In its turn, the AAM was arranged in two concentric semi-circles: the inner one comprising the concertino (soloists and continuo section), the outer the ripieno (literally ‘the rest’). All this framed by microphones (the concert being recorded for broadcast by the BBC) and stabilised by both the harpsichord and the priapic neck of Paula Chateauneuf’s theorbo, which jutted conspicuously into space.

The concert got off to a swaggering start with Handel’s delightful G major Concerto Grosso, the AAM’s sound rich and full, the varying textures of the music handled with an almost matter-of-fact virtuosity and pointing towards the profundity of Bach’s Concerto for oboe and violin (and here the concertino was joined by oboist Franck de Bruine, Rachel Podger stepping back to join the ripieno) and Vivaldi’s sunnier and more immediately attractive two-violin concerto (Podger here returning to share centre-stage with Pavlo Beznosiuk).

The second half of the programme commenced with another Handel Concerto Grosso, this time in a minor key and in the form of a ‘French Overture’ (that is, an overture proper with its attendant fugal Allegro followed by a suite of dances), before moving onto a very affable Vivaldi concerto for oboe and violin (the soloists this time de Bruine and Podger) and Bach’s great Concerto in D minor for two violins. The first movement of a triple concerto by Vivaldi provided the first encore; Handel had the last word with the second one.

These were quite superb performances, Beznosiuk directing the AAM with flair and elegance while injecting his own playing with a rhythmic punch and improvisatory freedom that was easily equal to Podger’s – although their tones and manner of phrasing couldn’t have been more different. De Bruine’s fruity oboe provided a much needed contrast of colour, his beautiful cantabile avoiding monotony by some imaginatively articulated phrases along the way (particularly effective was his instrument’s singing over the cross-string arpeggios and lean textures of theorbo and cello in the Largo of the Vivaldi concerto). It was also interesting to compare the performance of the Bach two-violin Concerto with one yours truly reviewed during the Proms last year; then Rachel Podger was partnered by Andrew Manze. Beznosiuk has the same fire as Manze, but is more stolid and earthy; Podger seemed equally at home with both, wonderful musician that she is.

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