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‘The Royal Trumpet’ – music by Handel, Eccles, Clarke, Purcell. The King’s Consort, dir. Robert King: Rebecca Bottone (soprano) Crispian Steele-Perkins (trumpet) Wigmore Hall, 24.2 2006. (ME)


The series of concerts to mark the King’s Consort’s 25th anniversary is nothing if not varied, and on this occasion a capacity audience was treated to some genuine instrumental virtuosity in a selection of music both familiar and obscure. Handel was the central composer, and the evening’s first work was entitled Mr Handel’s new Water piece,  being a compilation by the trumpet soloist of pieces first played by his great predecessor John Sargeant – it had a slightly odd air, in that the familiar parts were juxtaposed with some rather nebulous, if charming, music, some of it likely to be the work of John Grano, whose claims to fame are having played at the premiere of Handel’s ‘Water Music’ and having written a diary whose surviving pages tell the story of his life as a poor musician, only allowed out of debtors’ prison to earn enough to pay his debts.


This was followed by a ‘genuine’ Handel work, the lovely and rarely heard Haec est Regina virginum, written in 1707 to celebrate the major feast day of the Carmelite order; Rebecca Bottone sang both this and the more challenging Coelestis dum spirat aura very sweetly although I feel that at present her voice lacks the requisite colour. Purcell’s Music for the Royal Birthday allowed Steele-Perkins to display his assured technique and idiomatic style – the composer had provided a virtuosic part for the trumpeter John Shore, one fully taken advantage of as indeed was the wonderful duet between oboe and trumpet in the Handel aria D’estero dall’ empia, from ‘Amadigi.’


John Eccles is chiefly remarkable for having been the composer of what was probably the first performance of English opera on the continent, The Judgement of Paris in 1701, and we heard a Sonata  from it at the start of the concert’s second part. It’s a fascinating little work, looking back to Purcell and forward to Handel, and the Consort played it with plenty of verve and commitment. Jeremiah Clarke’s set of pieces selected by Steele-Perkins were probably first played by John Shore, and they were a delight, especially the final March for Ye Prince of Denmark.


The concert ended with two of Handel’s finest vocal pieces, Volate, amori from ‘Ariodante’ and Let the bright Seraphim from ‘Samson.’ They share an ecstatic, exhilarated tone as well as extreme difficulty, and the soprano rose to most of their challenges if not quite managing either the most stratospheric heights or the most fervent joyfulness of expression: at present her tone is rather unvarying and lacking in warmth, but since she is still very young there is plenty of time to develop a more individual style. Let the bright Seraphim provided Steele-Perkins with a final opportunity to let the audience hear a great trumpeter in full flow in something other than The Trumpet Shall Sound­ – an experience well worth having, and characteristic of the inventive programming of the King’s Consort. The final concerts in the season are at Cadogan Hall on March 9th, when music by Handel, Purcell and Britten celebrating St Cecilia will be performed, and at Wigmore Hall on March 30th, when Purcell’s Four Part sonatas will be interspersed with lute songs performed by Robin Blaze – both concerts highly recommended.


Melanie Eskenazi 



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)