Grave and Bubbly
Basil Ramsey listens to early music at a festival
Chelmsford Cathedral in Essex (England) last week hosted, as part of
the Chelmsford Festival, a concert with Emma Kirkby and the Academy of Ancient
Music under Christopher Hogwood. Its level of communication with the listener
was exceptional in my experience, even for such a professionally skilled
group. We heard supreme music-making in an ideal acoustic, and the choice
of music also lent itself to these accolades.
Andrew Manze, for instance, pitched into the Bach A minor Violin Concerto
as though a newly-discovered work. He was directing the orchestra, thereby
drawing the players into his vivacious overview. Graceful as the slow movement
is, Manze held it poised on a knife edge to rest exquisitely in the larger
picture. The raw edge of excitement was back in the finale: speed, fire
Emma Kirkby offered us a rarity: Bach's solo wedding cantata Weichet
nur, Betrubte Schatten BWV 202, which survives only in a copyist's hand.
The music responds to the poet's imagery with delicious ideas, a combination
perfectly designed for Emma Kirkby's clear, acrobatic voice. The effect
is quite magical (this cantata is on a new CD). Her special qualities reappeared
at the programme's end with Handel's Latin motet, Sileti venti. Its
self-borrowings -some quite familiar - and enchanting changes of mood and
tempo culminate in a mercurial flash of Alleluias to finish. Earlier,
we also heard an energetic sample of Geminiani's concerto grossi 'after
Corelli', a vigorous mixture of the two composers in excellent form.
Nobody with a shred of music in their soul can resist the disarming manner
in which early music is presented by the Academy. Grave or bubbly, it is
resurrected to vibrant life.
Copyright © Basil Ramsey, May