S&H Concert Review

English Concert/Trevor Pinnock (conductor and harpsichord) with Carolyn Sampson, Paul Agnew, Richard Edgar-Wilson & Antonio Abete (singers) Wigmore Hall 10 & 25 January 2001

A full house, with queues for returns and standing at the back (a frequent occurrence during the Wigmore Hall's Centenary Festival) greeted Trevor Pinnock with his players and singers for the first of two appearances of this 'most sublime harpsichordist among conductors' (Fono Forum). Despite several changes of personnel since the advance publicity, their programme of Italian music gave great pleasure, culminating in Monteverdi's graphic representation of battle between Paul Agnew and his disguised adversary Carolyn Sampson as Clorinda, the dreadful tale of Tancredi & Clorinda recounted vividly by Richard Edgar-Wilson. Of particular interest was a rarer appearance of Pinnock as solo harpsichordist, with a sonorous Handel chaconne, Bach's Partita No. 2 the most substantial offering, and a joyous sequence of Scarlatti sonatas to finish. Despite its relatively low dynamic level, the harpsichord sonority and Pinnock's workmanlike, undemonstrative manner easily filled the Wigmore Hall's space, helped by its warm acoustic, so that everyone right to the back was drawn into the performance, as if we were listening to private renditions of the player's favourite music..

Two justly praised recent recordings were being snapped up by the audience as they departed, a new version of the six Partitas on Hanssler 115 & the best accounts I know of the Violin Sonatas and Continuo Sonatas with Rachel Podger on Channel Classics - CCS14798 *****. See also my review of the splendid 5-CD boxed set Archiv 463 725-2 of all the concertos for harpsichord, violin, flute and oboe d'amore.

Trevor Pinnock makes every live appearance a notable event and he has a way to enthuse his musicians so that each of his CDs with The English Concert has a fresh, alive quality; some pf them should find a place in every collection.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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