This Passion by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was announced as conducted by Mark Padmore and that was not fully true. Maybe he conducted during the rehearsals, maybe the idea and conception of the performance was his but he was not conducting anything during the public performance. It’s ok to have a chamber orchestra without conductor, and many baroque ensembles rely on the continuo players to get tempi indications and attacks.
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).
It was a pity that the cold and snow prevented many people to attend to this wonderful concert from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at the Royal Festival Hall. OAE partners in crime were conductor Ádám Fischer and mezzo Stéphanie d’Oustrac both in splendid form. The first half of the concert was devoted to Mozart mixing arias from La Clemenza di Tito in between and after Prague symphony. The symphony was played with extreme accuracy while still taking risks with sharp entrances and layering.
Christophe Rousset was replacing the initially announced Ivor Bolton as conductor of this concert performance of Handel Semele. What a good deal! Rousset had already done this oratorio/opera in Paris and he has nicely evolved from a harpsichordist to I-conduct-my-own-period-instruments-ensemble to I-conduct-at-any-opera-house. So he brought all of this to this night: very good continuo sense, experience with HIP orchestras and full staged opera productions. Seen Rousset conducting with the hands, with energetic and fast movements is a delightful experience.
Glyndebourne’s La clemenza di Tito arrived to Proms in a semi-stage version. I’m not commenting about the stage because it won’t be fair. Maybe next year a rich boyfriend brings me to Glyndebourne to see these opera productions at their full. Let’s then focus on the musical part. Mozart masterpiece allows many different approaches. Young conductor Robin Ticciati presented a bright version of the it: luminosity over darkness, and it worked well.