Lithe and Springy
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER
It's nice to know that someone cares about Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745). Widely travelled, admired by J S Bach, but passed over for the top job at the Dresden court and embittered for the rest of his life as a result, he has been one of European music history's also-rans for too long. Ahead of their joint appearance at the Proms this summer, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra showed their belief in music which is as deft and witty as that of any of Zelenka's contemporaries (Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, UK, 26 April 2007).
His Ouverture à 7 Concertanti teems with an inventiveness which the players delivered with obvious relish. He has a knack of keeping you guessing as to exactly where a phrase is heading but, once it arrives, it seems perfectly logical. The startling harmonic shift near the end of the French-style overture, the lilting second movement and a minuet worthy of Haydn at his quirkiest -- directed by Freiburg's Gottfried von der Goltz, it all came across vividly in playing as lithe and springy as you could have wished.
The concert began with Rachel Podger encouraging the players to a fresh, infectiously bouncy and vigorous performance of Corelli's Concerto Grosso Op 6 No 1. She was at the helm again after the interval for a suite of Purcell pieces spliced together by Catherine Mackintosh from the scores for The Gordian Knot Unty'd and Abdelazer (as spirited an account of the well-known Rondeau as I can remember) and various instrumental pieces, including the Fantasia upon One Note and the Pavan in B flat, played with concentrated intensity.
Finally, Gottfried von der Goltz presided over a genuinely exciting performance of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, exuberant in the Ouverture and La Réjouissance, elegant in La Paix.
And isn't it wonderful to see an orchestra so obviously enjoying itself? The players' interaction was as much of a delight to watch as the results were to hear. The Proms audience is in for a real treat on 23 August.
Copyright © 2 May 2007
Mike Wheeler, Derby UK
ORCHESTRA OF THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT
ZELENKA AT THE EUROPAMUSICALE