Breathless Excitement

In the last of his reports from the 2019 Buxton Festival,
MIKE WHEELER listens to music by
Jean-Féry Rebel, Telemann, Marco Ucellini,
J S Bach, and an improvisation on 'La Folìa',
played by Improviso


Jean-Féry Rebel's Les Élémens opens with Baroque music's most startling dissonance - all seven notes of the D minor scale, if you're interested - representing primordial Chaos. The four players of Improviso - Fatima Lahham, recorders, Elin White, violin, Florence Petit, cello and Johan Löfving, theorbo - attacked it with gusto, before shading off into the gentle music that follows - Buxton Festival, Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton, UK, 7 July 2019. The dance movements and genre pieces that followed all received elegantly-turned phrasing, with Lahham and White particularly nimble and vigorous in the chaconne representing Fire.

Antoine Watteau's drawing, possibly from circa 1710, of Jean-Féry Rebel (1666-1747)
Antoine Watteau's drawing, possibly from circa 1710, of Jean-Féry Rebel (1666-1747)

It's a pity, then, that the group sprung a change to more than half the programme, with no prior announcement, and for no apparent reason. So instead of the advertised Vivaldi, they played a Trio Sonata in G minor by Telemann. Thoughtful accounts of the slow first and third movements were offset by a brisk second movement, full of showy virtuoso recorder writing, and the ending to the fourth movement was delightfully neat.

A sonata by Marco Ucellini was another change. In several short contrasting sections with no clear-cut division into separate movements, typical of mid-seventeenth-century Italian instrumental music, its shifting moods and styles were deftly navigated.

Then it was back to the advertised programme, with J S Bach's Trio Sonata, BWV 526, one of the six he composed for organ, imitating Italian originals, and which invite transcription for ensemble. Spirited, bubbly readings of the two outer movements enclosed beautifully soft playing in the central Largo.

Improviso. Photo © Bertrand Pichène
Improviso. Photo © Bertrand Pichène

The group takes its name from its explorations of improvisation techniques in baroque music, and which are a feature of its programmes. We were promised two improvisations; we got one, the concert ending with a collective improvisation on the dance tune 'La Folìa'. Starting slowly on theorbo, it steadily worked itself up into a frenzy of breathless excitement.

Copyright © 30 July 2019 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK



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