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 Corelli, Marcello, Vivaldi, JS Bach, Cambefort, Lully: Soloists, Academy of Ancient Music, /Richard Egarr, Wigmore Hall, London, 25.9.09 (J-PJ)

: Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op.6 No.8
Marcello: Oboe Concerto in D minor
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in B flat major, RV583
JS Bach: Harpsichord Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056; Concerto for two violins in D minor BWV 1043
Cambefort: Excerpts from Le Ballet de la Nuit
Lully: Sarabande from Les Plaisirs; ‘Plus j’observe ces lieux’ & Passacaille from Armide

Violin – Pavlo Beznosiuk, Rodolfo Richter
Oboe – Katharina Spreckelsen
Harpsichord – Richard Egarr

Billed as ‘Baroque in high definition’, this concert promised a night at the movies, with a programme of Baroque works featured in film soundtracks. The programme notes were at pains to prove the ‘truly fascinating relationship’ between film and music, and to explain how ‘cinema shapes the way we listen to it’. But the detailed descriptions of film scenes in which the music appeared had little impact on how the audience perceived the music. The scenes themselves were not memorable enough, and nor were they screened during the concert. Instead we were left with a purely musical rather than cinematic experience.

The concert opened with Corelli’s ‘Christmas Concerto’ in G minor. Despite its familiarity, the Academy players managed to bring a freshness and spontaneity to the piece, without some of the scratchiness that can mar performances. The less well-known oboe concerto by Alessandro Marcello was astonishingly played by Katharina Spreckelsen. Her control over the fancy fingerwork, particularly in the final movement, was totally assured. Less satisfying was Vivaldi’s B flat violin concerto. The first movement featured some uncomfortably sour notes from, which prompted lengthy tuning up in between the remaining movements. The central Andante was sweeter in tone, with delicate shading from the supporting strings and the dazzling cadenza in the final movement more than made up for Beznosiuk’s initial uncertainty.

The second half of the concert featured two substantial works by JS Bach. The F minor harpsichord concerto was brilliantly played by Richard Egarr, who also directed the Academy of Ancient Music. He was let down a little by some rather workmanlike string playing. The D minor concerto for two violins saw the return of Beznosiuk, with fellow soloist Rodolfo Richter. They made a sympathetic duo, moving seamlessly between the two violin parts, and displaying a particular warmth in the famous Largo. In between Bach, the Academy showcased short excerpts by Lully and his near contemporary, Jean de Cambefort. These featured in the French film Le Roi Danse and provided an interesting contrast to the Italianate concerti that made up the bulk of the programme. The air from Lully’s opera Armide (‘Plus j’observe ces lieu’) was particularly captivating, with the vocal line taken by the oboe, backed by hushed strings.

Overall an enjoyable and expertly played concert where the music could be enjoyed for itself, even if you hadn’t seen the films.

John-Pierre Joyce

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