New Year’s Eve at the Wigmore Hall – The King’s Consort

Concerto grosso in G minor ‘per la fato di natale’, Op.6/8
Concerto grosso in F, Op.6/9
Violin Concerto in D, RV208 (Il Grosso Mogul)
Concerto in C minor for Violin and Oboe, BWV1060
Battalia a 10 in D
Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, BWV1043

Stéphanie-Marie Degand & Matthew Truscott (violins)

Alexandra Bellamy (oboe)

The King’s Consort
Matthew Halls (harpsichord)

Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: 31 December, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Matthew TruscottThe King’s Consort is a very slick operation. In the brochure for this Wigmore Hall concert the group’s need for money was highlighted, Matthew Halls using his introductory spiel to further promote the ensemble, its image – young, clean-cut and rather earnest – exuding an Agatha Christie-like ‘Middle England’ air of tea and cucumber sandwiches on the lawn.

Unfortunately so does most of the music-making. There was a time when English groups dominated the ‘period instrument’ market, but the rise of brilliantly individual Italian and German bands has changed the musical landscape with a rather more interventionist approach to music-making – and have helped convert many people to the ‘authentic’ cause.

This concert opened with Corelli’s ‘Christmas Concerto’. There were severe intonation problems both here and in the following Handel. Fortunately as the instruments adjusted to the Wigmore Hall’s humidity and atmosphere, this problem largely disappeared. If the tuning was rather sharp, each of the work’s seven movements was expressively flat. The slow introduction was formless and the Adagio similarly non-sculptured. Throughout, the textures were monochrome – this was little more than a run-through and much the same could be said of the Handel – here, rather depressingly, there was also a complete lack of humour.

Stéphanie-Marie DegandThings improved slightly with the arrival of the French violinist Stéphanie-Marie Degand. She tore into Vivaldi’s music and her extemporisation was suitably quixotic. As a result the orchestra was forced to wake up and take a more active part – nevertheless the finale was let down by a plodding accompaniment and the whole exuded an air of joyless ruthlessness. Matthew Halls directed from the harpsichord, but for most of the time the instrument was inaudible. Presumably this was intentional, so as not to add any unwanted colour to the sound.

After the interval there was much of the same. In the first Bach item, the oboist was decidedly insecure and in the slow movement the band sounded unfocused, insecure and flimsy in the closing bars. Biber’s glorious riot of sound, Battalia, was ruthlessly efficient, but little else. Bach’s great Double Concerto came off better, with a rapt account of the Adagio. But Degand did rather make Matthew Truscott sound rather thin and inexpressive. More tea Vicar?

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