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<<  -- 3 --  David Wilkins    A WEEK TO REMEMBER


A visit by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir conducted by Tom Koopman began tentatively but progressed to a rousing, very satisfying conclusion. The all Handel programme was balanced as a minor-key first half and a jubilant second. Nothing wrong with the idea, but the playing of the G Minor Concerto Grosso Op 6 No 6 was fairly ordinary despite the valiant efforts of the orchestra leader to inject degrees of passion and pathos into the music-making. The usual merits of Koopman's no-nonsense way with such works was in evidence but the performance remained disappointingly earthbound. Perhaps the resident birds have become critically astute over the years as one or two took this opportunity to stretch their wings a mite.

The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir. Photo: Baris Ustel

The Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline fared better. The choir was crisp and precise and the soloists blended well. Robin Blaze's alto sound is not, thankfully for the balance, of the clarion variety and he, of all the soloists, looked and sounded most involved in the work. It needed the restorative interval, however, and the glowing riches of the Dettingen Te Deum to spark the evening into life. They brought on the trumpets and drums and everyone, performers and audience alike, remembered what it is to be carried along with the rush of Handel's inspiration. Natural trumpets made a particularly fine sound in that acoustic, Koopman relished the syncopations and even treated us to an encore repetition of the conclusion with mischief-making acceleration. Festival-feelgood had been restored and the audience (less than capacity for this concert, surprisingly) spilled into another balmy night with a baroque spring to their step.

The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir with soloists (from left to right) Henriette Feith, Robin Blaze, Jorg Durmuller and Klaus Mertens. Photo: Baris Ustel

The first of the London Philharmonic's concerts demonstrated, with all due respect to the Istanbul orchestra, quite what a first-rate band could make of the hall. The much beefier, more resilient violin sound was immediately apparent and the brass section's chorusing showed that it had probably taken them no longer to master the acoustic than it had to unpack their instruments. Jukka Pekka Saraste conducted a programme of Sibelius and Tchaikovsky which made for the initially odd juxtaposition of Sibelius' cool imaginings at the end of a sweltering Istanbul day. Pohjola's Daughter (what a great piece it is!) had plenty of belly-fire and ample soulful singing-out. Only the ultimate in mid-work propulsion was lacking in a performance that subsided into a wonderfully hushed solitude before the audience released the strength of their appreciation.

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Copyright © 30 June 2002 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, Sussex, UK




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