Le Concert d'Astrée with Devieilhe & Desandre: sublime Handel

In the middle of the London Handel Festival, mostly filled with English/London performers, we had the visit of one of the French baroque groups that better play Handel music: Le Concert d’Astrée. Major attraction of this concert at the Wigmore Hall was Sabine Devieilhe presence. Initially programmed Marianne Crebassa was replaced by the younger Lea Desandre. But the biggest surprise was Thomas Dunford playing a sublimely varied and rich continuo from his theorbo.

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Mr Handel’s Vauxhall Pleasures, my boredom

I reckon that part of the problem with this concert was on my side: I don’t enjoy traditional lectures that are statical, rigid and without live audience engagement. I’d rather read an article about the subject. So if I go to a show I expect a real performance with a brilliant lecturer. Unfortunately this was not the case of this concert. The music was interrupted constantly by bits of information about Handel’s times delivered by Lars Tharp like if he was trying to get an Olivier award nomination: very theatrically and boring.

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Rinaldo: The English Concert

This Rinaldo concert version at the Barbican by the The English Concert was sold out a long time ago. As it is a collection of Handel previous hits it makes sense to be so enjoyable in a non-staged version. The cast worked pretty well. Iestyn Davies voice is beautiful and he masters Rinaldo role. He had some minor problems with some coloratura but still delivered a intense performance. The ladies, Jane Archibald as Armida and Joelle Harvey as Almirena were superb.

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The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment: Bach and Handel - Great Balls of Fire

Just two days after the Mozart and Haydn concert The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was back in a smaller form (one instrument per part) but equally great in quality. The programme was build around virtuoso keyboard concerti from Handel and Bach: Op. 4 No. 1 and Op. 7 No. 5 from the former (organ) and Brandenburg No. 5 from the former. That was a short programme without intermission but with some other perks: an revealing pre-concert talk by Crispin Woodhead about the keyboard improvisation practice and a Q&A session with the orchestra before the audience chose the encore (spoiler, Bach won).

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Christopher Purves sings Handel with Arcangelo

This was a nice Handel programme played with extreme perfection by Arcangelo and very nicely sung by Christopher Purves. We were witnesses of the Purves and director Jonathan Cohen friendship with a lot of effusiveness exhibition on the stage. Purves was also funny marketing their upcoming recording.

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Cecila Bartoli and Sol Gabetta at the Barbican

What an intelligent musician Cecilia Bartoli is. She has been assembling very interesting programmes for recordings and tours since more than 20 years ago. And she still keeps innovating and making them interesting. This time the idea was combining baroque repertoire for voice and an instruments. Something similar to what Katherine Battle did many years ago with the trumpet: but with a cello: Cecilia chose as partner Sol Gabetta, a brilliant young cellist.

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The English Concert and the Choir of New College Oxford directed by Robert Quinney

This was a nice concert by The English Concert. Despite having children singing. I grow up in a post-Harnoncourt world where boys choirs to do HIP church baroque music was already demodé. Until I came to Britain where, by default, if nothing else is said, choirs haven children. Robert Quinney did a wonderful work not only conducting all the pieces but also introducing them to the audience with some humor.

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Whitehall choir and London Baroque Sinfonia: Joshua

It’s lovely how a non-professional choir goes for the non-easy path of performing works out of the main repertoire. The Whitehall choir did a good job singing the choral parts of Handel Joshua. Nothing virtuosic nor risky but fine. More problematic was the London Baroque Sinfonia, the typical mostly ad-hoc ensemble made with freelancers. There is nothing wrong with that approach, but it requires a conductor with strong personality working with them.

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English National Opera: Rodelinda

Rodelinda is one of the most loved Handel operas. But as most of baroque operas it’s really tricky to stage it nowadays in a production that both makes sense to contemporary audiences and keeps the drama in a natural way. And that’s the best we can say about this Richard Jones production: it perfectly tells you the story without feeling artificial. Anything else in the production is also quite good: costumes, lighting, sets…

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Holst singers and La Nuova Musica: Mozart great mass in C-minor

This was the first collaboration between Holst singers and La Nuova Musica under the direction of David Bates and, after the results, I am pretty sure that won’t be the last. Handel is like home for La Nuova Musica so opening the programme with Judas Maccabeus overture was totally natural for them. And they did very well. The challenge was to come: Mozart. First Mary Bevan sang the beautiful Ruhe sanft from Zaide.

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Academy of Ancient Music with Carolyn Sampson: Bless’d Isle

This concert was a mix of routine and brilliance. If everything had been played perfectly from the technical point of view it could had reached 7 skateboards. However some mismatches, with the orchestra totally lost, during a couple of songs blurred the final result. The nice programme notes tried to link all the pieces from a historical point of view. However, as a concert they didn’t work very well together, looking like a bad pasticcio.

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Roberta Invernizzi sings Handel at Wigmore Hall

I’m a declared fan of Roberta Invernizzi since her first recordings with Antonio Floro, Alan Curtis and Fabio Bonizzoni. As her recital title, she is a Queen of the baroque opera. I would have preferred a recital with less well-known repertoire, like the Neapolitan composer she has frequented or even Vivaldi rather than so much Giulio Cesare. As an example we have just had in London a full performance of this masterpiece by the English Touring Opera and will have another one with the Early Opera Company and Christian Curnyn at the 2018 Handel Festival.

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Skate Art Guy

A guy who loves skate and arts

London