Inspirations: The Early Music Weekend (2)

“The Virtuoso Godfather”

Concerto for flute, viola da gamba and bassoon
Trio for flute, viola d’amore and harpsichord
Sonata for flute, two viola da gambas and harpsichord
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Fantasia, H639 ‘Jesu meines Lebens Leben’
Sonata for flute, two viola da gambas and harpsichord

Charivari Agréable:
Rachel Moss (Baroque flute), Susanne Heinrich (pardessus viol & bass viol), Reiko Ichise (viol) & Kah-Ming Ng (harpsichord & chamber organ)

“Music for the New Jerusalem”

Bernardo Pasquini
Toccata for organ
Francisco António de Almeida
In dedicatione templi
Domenico Scarlatti
Stabat mater for ten voices
Jacinto do Sacramento
Sonata para cravo
João Rodrigues Esteves
Miserere for three choirs

Ensemble Européen William ByrdGraham O’Reilly (director)

“Vivaldi: Violinist and Impresario”

Concerto/Sinfonia in E minor for strings and continuo, RV134
Concerto in C for violin, two cellos and continuo, RV561
La costanza trionfante fe gl’amori e de gl’odii, RV706 –
Tito Manlio, RV738 –
Ottone in Villa, RV729 – Arias for soprano, strings and continuo
Concerto in B flat for violin, strings and continuo, RV370Concerto in D minor for violin, strings and continuo RV243 ‘Senza cantin’
La fida ninfa, RV714 – Arias for soprano, strings and continuo
Concerto in E flat for violin, strings and continuo, RV254

Mhairi Lawson (soprano)

La Serenissima
Adrian Chandler (violin)

“Rhetoric of the Gods”

Marin Marais
Pièces de viole – from Books 3, 4 & 5
Jean Henry D’Anglebert
Pièces de clavecin
Pièces de viole – from Books 2, 4 & 5
Robert de Visée
Premier livre de guitare – Suite in B minor
Pièces de viole – from Book 2

Friederike Heumann (viola da gamba), Dirk Börner (harpsichord) & Evangelina Mascardi (theorbo & Baroque guitar)


Reviewed by: Rob Witts

Reviewed: 16 September, 2006
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall & Purcell Room, London

Following Friday’s evening ‘Introduction’ and opening concerts, this was the first full day of the South Bank Centre’s Early Music Weekend – a feast of the Baroque, in which each of the concerts presented a well-considered thesis. Opening proceedings, in “The Front Room at the QEH” (the foyer!), the superb chamber group Charivari Agréable juxtaposed trio sonatas by Telemann with works by musicians from the younger generation. Georg Philipp Kress was Telemann’s godson, and his Trio showed the elder composer’s influence in its well-crafted counterpoint and light melodic touch. The Fantasia on the chorale theme ‘Jesu meines Lebens Leben’ is of uncertain attribution; if by C.P.E. Bach, it is an exercise in the archaic style of his father, with anguished contrapuntal figuration surrounding the stately appearance of the chorale theme in the flute. Finer by far were the sonatas by Telemann, sensitively played by musicians enjoying every melodic felicity and expressive chromatic twist.

Ensemble Européen William Byrd under director Graham O’Reilly brought music of the Portuguese golden age, when Domenico Scarlatti was among musicians brought to Lisbon to impart Roman mastery to the newly-wealthy kingdom. Scarlatti’s sublime “Stabat mater” formed the centrepiece of this concert, sounding amazingly fresh accompanied by organ, double bass and Spanish harp. Also impressive was the antiphonal “Miserere” by Estevez, a work of harmonic daring and rich textures. If the Purcell Room stage did not allow the full spatial effect of three choirs echoing and merging, this was still irresistibly powerful music, the tenors’ chant contrasting with the aural tapestry of twelve-voice textures.

The parallel stylistic development of Vivaldi’s instrumental and operatic writing was the topic of La Serenissima’s concert in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Adrian Chandler showed how the ritornello style was adapted to brilliant arias, and how in turn the fashionable, melodic, Neapolitan style of later years filtered from opera back to concertos, with the violin now becoming the singing voice. Mhairi Lawson was an impressive performer in the several arias, spinning out Vivaldi’s furiously tricky passagework with no apparent effort and a pure, focussed sound. However, in the instrumental works, the ensemble was sometimes unbalanced, with the second violins dominating the firsts, and while Adrian Chandler is an impressive musician and scholar, as a soloist he lacked the bravura virtuosity that would make the violin concertos truly thrilling.

Finally, in the Purcell Room, there were plenty of thrills in Friederike Heumann’s ‘trio’ concert, an exceptional threesome of musicians, celebrating the 350th-anniversary of the birth of Marin Marais. During the afternoon, at the National Film Theatre, there had been a screening of Alain Corneau’s cult biopic “Tous les matins du monde” (with Gérard Depardieu), which treats the relationship between Marais and his teacher Sainte-Colombe, places sumptuous, painterly images behind Marais’s viol music (played by Jordi Savall), and is badly mimed by the cast. However, this concert proved such window-dressing redundant, as Heumann (a pupil of Savall) brought the music to vivid life in all its emotional directness. Dirk Börner and Evangelina Mascardi gave excellent continuo support, as well as solo interludes: for Mascardi an exquisite little suite by Robert de Visée, guitar tutor to Louis XIV, and for Börner a rococo piece of D’Anglebert in which even the ornaments had ornaments! But Heumann’s luminous tone and expressively applied vibrato were as memorable as her agility in tackling Marais’s extensive variations on ‘La folia’.

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