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AAE & AAM in London September 2009


Corelli Concerto Grosso in D, Op.6 No.1 Vivaldi Concerto in D minor for two violins and cello, Op.3, No.11 Bach Brandenburg Concerto No.5
Handel Concerto Grosso in B flat, Op.6 No.7 Vivaldi Flute Concerto in G minor, La Notte Geminiani Concerto Grosso, La Follia

Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment/Margaret Faultless director/violin [pictured]
Lisa Beznosiuk flute Steven Devine harpsichord

Kings Place, London 17 September 2009

This was an interesting evening, beginning after work at 6.30 with a well attended partnership between the core group of OAE and the acoustic marvel of Kings Place Hall One.

The three items comprising the first concert were well contrasted and filled the allocated 45 minutes exactly. Although OAE was "led from the violin" excellently by the eponymous Margaret Faultless, one might have thought that Steven Devine was in charge, so eye catching is his body movement and attentive gesturing at the harpsichord. The high point of this concert, and of the whole evening, was undoubtedly Bach's amazing Brandenburg No 5. The harpsichord, with its busy passage work, was subsumed in the texture of the whole at first, but later in the first movement the strings fell away, leaving it alone in all its glory, Devine rising to virtuoso heights in the long cadenza (as we'd call it) which is more spectacular than those in the actual harpsichord concertos.

In that first movement Liza Beznosiuk's mellow baroque flute was disconcertingly quiet; for the trio slow movement and the finale, her companion soloists appeared to fine down their tone to accommodate her and make for a better balance; for us, seeing her playing was a help for the ears. There were eight microphones deployed, which BBC engineers fussed around between the items, adjusting them from time to time; balance will probably have been tweaked in the flute's favour for the future R3 broadcast.

During the longish interval before the second concert a score of people went to hear Margaret Faultless give an interesting survey of the rise of the concerto form during the Baroque era, with reference to the evening’s programmes and the similar one next day. Anywhere else in London, that would have been a free event.

The second group of concertos, ending with Geminiani's version of the ubiquitous La Follia, amounted to but forty minutes of music (no encore) and was less successful than the earlier concert, for which the audience had probably been swelled by people coming after work before going home. At 8.30, it saw the audience halved, dispiriting for the players surely?

The explanation must be the pricing structure, which caused some murmurings overheard amongst the audience - behind us "bite-sized concerts but big size cost"... After La Follia, the three soloists moved swiftly out to the foyer and played some trio sonatas whilst the bar was still open; that The After-Show was free ! The total cost for the evening was up to £39.50. Saver Seat deals were available but only for advance online booking...

Film & Ancient Music
Hannah and Her Sisters; Le Roi Danse; Lorenzo's Oil; Children of a Lesser God; Master & Commander; I'm not ScaredAAM

Corelli 'Christmas Concerto' in G minor Op.6 No.8
Marcello Concerto in D minor for oboe
Vivaldi Concerto in B flat major for violin
JS Bach Concerto in F minor for harpsichord
Lully Dances, and Passacaille from Armide
JS Bach Concerto in D minor for 2 violins

Academy of Ancient Music
Richard Egarr
director & harpsichord
Pavlo Beznosiuk & Rodolfo Richter
Katharina Spreckelsen

Wigmore Hall, 25 September 2009

AAM opened its Wigmore Hall season with "a panoply of baroque music featured in films", ranging from Woody Allen's 'Hannah and Her Sisters' to 'Le Roi Danse', which explores Lully's life-long association with King Louis XIV. Inevitably, I was reminded of Music Web's archived Film Music on the Web, to which I had contributed occasionally.

This concert, first given at the Cambridge Film Festival the previous evening, was presented in a way which must have bemused the mainly venerable members of AAM, if they had time to scan their programmes between their party/receptions downstairs in the Bechstein Room.

All that apart, it was in fact a standard concert of well known baroque concertos from Corelli to Vivaldi, finishing with Bach's imperishable double violin concerto, all the items chosen because of their presences in film sound tracks. Inevitably, comparison with their friendly rivals, the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment, heard in similar repertoire at Kings Place last week, came to mind.

Richard Egarr directs from the harpsichord, his back to the audience, mostly by nodding his head vigorously. The 17 strong band crowded the Wigmore Hall platform and made there a brave, generally loud sound. There was less refinement and subtlety than within OAE a week ago, with the notable rapport between Steven Devine and Margaret Faultless. Pavlo Beznosiuk in Vivaldi was not to be compared with her, nor with several Italian virtuosi admired in recent baroque CDs. Richter has a more mellow tone, the contrast between the two giving an attractive focus to the Bach double concerto. Egarr's best moment (with the harpsichord turned sideways) was in the Bach F minor concerto's slow movement, accompanied only by cello, with two violins and a viola pizzicato. Katharina Spreckelsen's penetrating baroque oboe made itself heard more easily at Wigmore Hall than did the flute of Lisa Beznosiuk (Pavlo's sister) at Kings Place.

Peter Grahame Woolf