Academy of Ancient Music

Brandenburg Concerto No.4 in G, BWV1049
Divertimento in D, K136
Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K546
Brandenburg Concerto No.5 in D, BWV1050

Rachel Brown (flute/recorder)
Rachel Beckett (recorder)
Pavlo Beznosiuk (violin)

Academy of Ancient Music
Richard Egarr (harpsichord)

Reviewed by: Erwin Hösi

Reviewed: 5 August, 2006
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

This was one of the first occasions to get acquainted with the Academy of Ancient Music under its new leader, founder Christopher Hogwood having left the post after nearly 35 years. Associate director since last year, Richard Egarr now takes over the role, directing from the harpsichord, and if this superb concert is anything to go by, he will be a worthy successor: here the Academy’s well-established strengths, combined with some obscure material and numerous breathtaking passages for the soloists, made the afternoon go by in an instant.

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.4 set the tone for the concert, with impressive work of the soloists. Despite Rachel Brown’s and Rachel Beckett’s captivating contributions, Pavlo Beznosiuk stole the show, his virtuosity and imaginative ornamentation putting him in the spotlight. The superlative accompaniment highlighted the Academy’s long experience as an ensemble, with densely interwoven lines and homogenous though transparent sound.

Everything changed with the next piece, where the ensemble miraculously turned into a late-18th-century string group and an accompanying guitar became the only reminder of an earlier period. The Divertimento in D is light-hearted Mozart, and moving from Bach’s largely polyphonic landscape into such charming territory proved just how flexible this ensemble is. The highlight here was the last movement, where the same energetic edginess that permeated the Brandenburg concerto became mixed with a musical enthusiasm that only Mozart seems able to conjure up.

Following was the afternoon’s ‘obscure’ piece, presenting Mozart as an admirer of ‘ancient’ styles of music; the combination of a distinctively Mozartian theme with what sounded like strict polyphony in the Fugue was an odd but interesting musical experience.

Closing this short, interval-less concert, the Brandenburg Concerto No.5 presented some remarkable instrumental bravura, this time from the group’s new director, Richard Egarr’s astonishing solo cadenza in the Allegro movement of this first of all keyboard concertos was overwhelming. This was Egarr at his best, as documented on many solo CDs and chamber collaborations. As the harpsichord had been turned to the side for this piece, it was also possible to see his spirited conducting, betraying pure dedication and enthusiasm. Hopefully there will be much more to come.

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