Les Goûtes Réunis

Ombre de mon amant
Vos mespris chaque jour
Ad Dapes Venite
Sonata in A minor, Op.1/8 for 2 violins and basso continuo
Sonata for violin and continuo
Sonata for 2 violins, Op.IV/2
Usquequo Domine

Ensemble Arcangelo:
Sara Macliver (soprano)
Paul Wright, Sophie Gent & Emily Thompson (violins)
Suzanne Wijsman (cello)
Stewart Smith (organ & harpsichord)
Tommie Andersson (theorbo)

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 30 May, 2006
Venue: Winthrop Hall, University of Western Australia, Perth

Paul Wright announced before this concert that the other soprano who was to have taken part, Taryn Fiebig, was indisposed and would not be performing. Consequently, the programme was modified, with Jean-Baptiste Stuck’s cantata “Les Bains de Toméry” omitted entirely and Nicolas Bernier’s cantata for two sopranos “Ad Dapes Salutis Venite” becoming a work for solo soprano with violin obbligato. Wright begged the audience’s indulgence and hoped nobody would be asking for their money back – which was unlikely, given the attractiveness of the music and the quality of the performances.

The programme was designed to show the gathering influence of the Italian style on French musical composition in the first half of the 18th century. Thus Michel Lambert’s two works served as a springboard for the rest of the concert, with the thoroughly French idiom of the Air de cour in “Ombre de mon amant” giving way to the Italian ground bass of the typical Venetian lamenti in “Vos mespris chaque jour”. Here Macliver and company were suitably affecting, the subtle ornamentation on the repeated material gracing the elegance of both playing and singing. The majority of the instrumentalists merely provided introductions to both songs before falling silent, allowing Tommie Andersson’s theorbo to accompany the voice alone.

Nicolas Bernier’s motet “Ad Dapes Salutatis” followed; as a piece for solo soprano with violin obbligato (for the reason mentioned previously) it was remarkably effective – although one was left longing to hear it in its original form. Wright and Sophie Gent (accompanied by Stewart Smith and Suzanne Wijsman) then played Michele Mascitti’s thoroughly Italianate Sonata for 2 violins with great panache (Mascitti was a Neapolitan composer and student of Corelli who settled in Paris in 1704), its movements alternating between highly embellished slow ones and highly imitative allegros and thus providing plenty of room for interpretative felicities.

Following the intermission, Gent, this time partnered only by Stewart Smith (on harpsichord), gave a highly articulate rendering of violin-virtuoso and composer Jean-Jaques-Baptiste Anet. That Gent’s intonation was not always spot-on is of little consequence given the fluency of her ornamentation and phrasing. Smith then left to be replaced by Wright for a performance of Louis-Gabriel Guillemain’s very witty Sonata for 2 unaccompanied violins; again, the playing here was very fine if a tad po-faced – a little more dance and humour wouldn’t have gone astray.

The final work, Jean-Joseph Mouret’s setting of “Psalm 12” found all the musicians participating. Ensemble Arcangelo’s performance was stylish and colourful, Macliver displaying her trademark beauty of tone while blending perfectly with the strings and continuo instruments. All in all, then, a highly enjoyable evening – despite the casualty.

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