Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G
Brandenburg Concerto No.5 in D
Brandenburg Concerto No.6 in B flat
Flute Concerto in E minor
Sonatas al Santo Sepolcro in E flat (RV130) & B minor (RV169)
Lisa Beznosiuk (flute)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Richard Egarr (director/harpsichord)
Catherine Macintosh (violin)
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: 30 April, 2004
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
If you are ever feeling depressed, go to a concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – its members enjoy their music-making so much and communicate a feel-good factor to all present. This conspicuously well-planned, Club Sandwich programme, found the three Brandenburg concertos deep-filled with Frantisek Benda’s spirited flute concerto and two of Vivaldi’s sacred sonatas.
The brief Vivaldi pieces, which opened the second half, were interesting because they are unlike ‘normal’ Vivaldi. Probably written for an Easter Vigil service, they are sombre, even tortured pieces, chromatic in their introductions and sternly, resolutely fugal in the succeeding allegros. The other ‘sandwich filling’ was the substantial flute concerto with the wonderful Lisa Beznosiuk. Frantisek Benda (brother of the more famous Georg) spent much of his life at the court of Frederick the Great accompanying the musically insatiable Frederick at more than 10,000 recitals; an incredible figure that maybe betokens a certain artistic licence in Benda’s recollection! The concerto is reminiscent of CPE Bach without tears (i.e. with the angst removed). It has the most affecting slow movement, one with a surprise ending, followed by a ‘moto perpetuo’ finale, here receiving an absolutely scintillating performance from the self-effacing Beznosiuk. She has nothing to be modest about – this was baroque-flute playing as good as it gets.
Of JS Bach’s three Brandenburgs, No.3 was given a light-fingered, delightful performance. No.6 for lower strings, a more serious affair, the slow movement’s two violas (of the de gamba variety, here Jan Schlapp and Nicholas Logie) interweaving serenely, received a loving rendition. The irrepressible Richard Egarr tended to push tempos along, especially No.6’s finale, which could have done with a sturdier tread.
Much more satisfactory in its totality was an outstanding No.5. Whether because he had his hands full coping with the virtuoso harpsichord part, Egarr here set an altogether steadier course. The long decrescendo at the heart of the first movement was a miracle of sustained control. In the trio-sonata slow movement the not-needed (standing) players moved back to form an on-stage audience whilst Catherine Macintosh, Beznosiuk and Egarr made magic. The joyous Gigue rejoined everyone for a finale that closed the concert with infectious bounce.