Some weeks before the usual Easter performances of Bach passions we had an interesting proposal from the BBC Signers: the UK premiere of Mendelssohn edition of Bach Matthäus-Passion. Coming from a choir and directed by a choral conductor the stress of this performance was more in the choral side than in the orchestral one, which was relegated to the circumstantial band St. James’ Baroque. This was a pity because the biggest differences with the original version, other than cuts, were on the orchestral side, with some bass line significant changes.
I was very excited about this double concert. As you might already know I love French baroque and there are not many changes of seeing this repertoire in London. The first concert worked as an introduction to Couperin music: one concert from Les Goûts-réunis, three airs, some fragments from the 2nd book of Pièces de clavecin and finally another concert from Concerts royaux. The ensemble was minimal: violin, gamba and Rousset conducting from the harpsichord.
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.
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.