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Barbara Bonney was the major late cancellation from this year's Festival. Her place, in an attractive-looking concert with the Basel Chamber Orchestra under Giovanni Antonini, was taken by Lynne Dawson. One thought she would be a tremendously successful replacement. In Haydn's Scene from Berenice, she was authoritative in her mastery of the acoustic problems of the Haghia Eirene and communicated genuine narrative powers but seemed, perhaps understandably, under-rehearsed and occasionally under the note in intonation. Her top notes resounded well in the cupola -- where they were joined, as usual, by the lovably familiar sounds of nesting birds. In the Countess' arias from The Marriage of Figaro, however, there was no real identification with the questioning or the compassion of the character. She was there, but I wasn't there with her, had no sense that she would be fabulous to hear in the role on stage, and longed for Bonney's ability to float a simple line and fill it with wisdom.

An Istanbul street scene. Photo © Keith Bramich
An Istanbul street scene. Photo © Keith Bramich

For the rest, the Basel Orchestra was on great form. An overture by Franz Ignaz Beck (L'Isle deserte) was a revelation. Mozart in Prague and then some! A Boccherini symphony showed how well the sections of the orchestra listened to each other, how refined was their articulation and how a decent performance can elevate moderately inspired music to a higher level of achievement. Haydn's Farewell Symphony had the most lovely and tender phrasing in its slow movement. There had been some flaccid rubatos in the preceding Allegro Assai and there were some underplayed syncopations in the Minuet and Trio but the usual fun was had with departing players in the Finale and the cheer it received was well earned.

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Copyright © 25 July 2004 David Wilkins, Eastbourne UK


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