I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Academy of Ancient Music - Bach

This past Sunday, I attended at concert at George Mason University by the Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Egarr of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. I previously saw Egarr's band in Portsmouth, in 2007, performing Handel. I thought his joviality lent a certain freshness to the ensemble, and they sounded good (in a church). The concert today in Mason's large performing arts hall was too large for the intimate ensemble, although they did bring in a crowd to fill almost every seat. IMG_0110.jpg Egarr has a dry wit and he used it effectively during stage changes after each concerto by talking to the audience and cracking some jokes. The ensemble's choice of using one player per part worked, but only to a certain degree. At times with two strings on a part, you could detect some intonation issues, but honestly, any two string players cannot play each note perfectly in-tune. That's why orchestras typically opt for multiple players per part: the inconsistencies between tones make for a 'lush' sound. While I trust the scholarship behind the 1 per part decision, it worked less ably in a large space. At times the harpsichord continuo got lost. They did ramp-up the volume with continuo, however, by inviting William Carter on theorbo. His bass lute had enough punch, especially with the open strings, for appropriate balance. The ensemble made their way through all six of Bach's diverse concerti, although in their own special order: opening with #1, and ending with #4. The fourth ended with a super-fast tempo, one that I thought must have been a special challenge for the violin soloist, Rodolfo Richter. The first concerto suffered from some cohesiveness issues: at times the ensemble did sound as "tight" as possible. #5, in contrast, was far more tight, opening the second half of the concert. Egarr made reference to Pickett's allegorical readings of the six concerti, which I have referenced in my own research on Bach's concertos. Egarr and Beznosuik both played in Pickett's recording with the New London Consort in the 1990s. The ensemble at times really looked as it was having fun, especially with seasoned players who felt the freedom of adding ornamentation to Bach's notes. Especially refreshing were those from the violins in Brandenburg #3. The ensemble's sound was good, but it suffered from projection issues in the large hall. Especially lacking were some of Richter's playing (he took the reins from Beznosuik in concertos #1 and #4 as the violin soloist), the double bass, and at times the harpsichord. The recording by the AAM released on harmonia mundi suffers none of these drawbacks, but the performances are perhaps a little less extrovert in the recording. The ensemble toned-down their ornaments, extremes in tempi, but do treat us with a rich, sonorous sound. After the concert, the AAM was selling CDs and director Egarr was signing. I snagged his autograph amid the fans and shared quick words with the latest director of Hogwood's AAM. IMG_0339.jpg

Lewis Ginter Botanical

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