Sandrine Piau & Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset at Wigmore Hall – Montéclair, Handel, Scarlatti, Corelli, Vivaldi

Michel Pignolet de Montéclair
La Morte di Lucretia
Trio Sonata in D minor, Op.3/5
Domenico Scarlatti
Tinte a note di sangue
Trio Sonata in D minor, Op.1/12 (La folia)
Notte placida e cheta, HWV142

Sandrine Piau (soprano)

Les Talens Lyriques [Gilone Gaubert-Jacques & Jivka Kaltcheva (violins); Emmanuel Jacques (cello)] directed by Christophe Rousset (harpsichord)

Reviewed by: Curtis Rogers

Reviewed: 30 April, 2016
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Sandrine PiauPhotograph: Antoine Le Grand / NaïveSandrine Piau stood in at short notice for Ann Hallenberg in this Wigmore Hall recital with Les Talens Lyriques, and preserved its subject of the Arcadian cantata, though she substituted an example by Montéclair on the death of Lucrezia, in place of one by Nicola Fago, and something by Domenico Scarlatti rather than Alessandro. The concept of Arcadia as a place of rustic innocence and beauty was a potent one amongst the cultured aristocracy at the beginning of the 18th-century, but as these settings show – harking back to the Virgilian notion of an idyll overshadowed by death as referenced in the dictum “Et in Arcadia ego” – it was really an elusive state of being more yearned for than achieved or celebrated.

Piau’s performances reflected that atmosphere of hoped-for and idealised tranquillity through the radiance of her singing, which never came under strain even as the music became impassioned. She maintained control whilst expressing resignation, regret, or grief, and registered a different tone of delivery in La Morte di Lucretia according to whether she was assuming the role of that tragic figure or narrating the story from an external perspective. Piau’s technical agility came to the fore particularly with her masterful control the first aria of Handel’s cantata with its pregnant and wide melodic leaps.

Christophe RoussetPhotograph: Eric LarrayadieuChristophe Rousset and his three colleagues from Les Talens Lyriques provided accompaniment that was stylish on its own terms but did not upstage the vocal layer. On the contrary, the players’ contribution complemented Piau’s to hint at the balance and harmony sought or recalled by the lamenting figures given expression in these compositions.

Elsewhere, Rousset led the instrumentalists in two Trio Sonatas. Corelli’s Opus 3/5 is a Sonata da chiesa rather than camera, and it was played it with a due sense of solemnity and concentration, the rhythms of the final ‘Gigue’ also being restrained. Unlike the incremental build-up of energy and drama in Corelli’s famous take on ‘La folia’, Vivaldi’s make more of a contrast from one section to another. Rousset and company observed this with the measured introduction of their interpretation, and steady pace of the succeeding variations, though that somewhat obscured the common thread of the theme.

Piau offered two operatic arias by Handel as encores, first Cleopatra’s ‘Piangerò la sorte mia’ from Giulio Cesare, and then a slightly laboured account of ‘Tornami a vagghegiar’ from Alcina.

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