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.

Les Concerts des Nations

On April 9, 2005 Biberfan saw Jordi Savall and his Concerts des Nations ensemble perform at Camp Concert Hall at the University of Richmond. From Playbill Arts website:

Les Concerts des Nations is one of the three ensembles Savall will tour with in a rather complicated schedule featuring three separate programs. Savall and Les Concerts des Nations will visit Richmond (April 9), Buffalo (April 12), and Chicago (April 15—the ensemble’s Windy City debut) with a program titled “Les Gout Reunis.” He will also perform with his groups Hesperion XXI and La Capella Reial de Cataunya in Ann Arbor, Michigan (April 14), and Kansas City (April 16). The program in those cities is called “Music of Love and War.” Finally, Savall will present both those programs plus a night of “Passacaglias & Romanescas” during three appearances at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 11, 13, and 18. I bought the tickets just today for this remarkable recital. I am not sure Les Gout Reunis is very informative, nor was the theme of rococo that the U of Richmond themed the concert as... nonetheless, on the program were works by Couperin, Rameau, Purcell, Rösenmuller, and Leclair. The ensemble was coaxed into playing an encore, it was by Marais, a rather fitting, and toe-tapping march. As I sat back and enjoyed each number, I silently realized that none of this music being played is famous, at least not to modern ears, and what a remarkable concert it was without any outstanding masterworks. I have never seen Savall live before, and among the over 100 CDs he has recorded, I don't own too many... yet, I was impressed tonight--both with his ensemble, and with his star violinist, one of my favorites, Manfredo Kraemer of Rare Fruits Council fame. The program used three violins, a cello, Savall on viola da gamba, a violone, and a harpsichord. The harpsichord was the most unaffective player in the concert; it was difficult to hear, and despite the ensemble playing works by Couperin and Rameau, no features set this instrument, or its player, apart. The most modern piece played by the ensemble was a Leclair violin sonata; he's my among my favorite composers. I was hoping the work would be the one Kraemer plays on his Devil/Angel CD, but it was not; this number was far less virtuosic, and seemed to include more of the ensemble. Kraemer's playing was impeccable throughout the concert; he used an older-style bow than his two comrades. While in the first number he kind of sat back and faded into the ensemble sound, once the second number came up, he dominated the texture ever so slightly, playing in a style more athletic than his other bowed string members. In some instances, he seemed to lead the ensemble. Savall was first to hit a couple notes that missed their tuning; in general, however, he did his best at playing both the role of violist, and also of the bass. The bass, by the way, from this ensemble was strong: with four players sometimes playing the continuo part, there was plenty to go around, and this richness was a welcome sound. The second most striking player after Kraemer on violin was the guitar/theorbo player. He's a gifted man with a guitar in his hands, watching his hand pluck, strum, and apreggiate strings was intoxicating and toe tapping fun. The acoustic of the hall didn't necessarily support the ensemble well, nevertheless, they did a commendable job at some difficult numbers that changed rhythmic pulses. I am not sure how many audience members got this technique, but a shift of one beat in a square rhythm to the "one" in a three-beat rhythm is a fun thing to hear, and see performed. It's challenging, and they did it on a number of occasions without a flinch. One could sit there, amazed at all the different colors the same instruments produced through the colorful tunes of several different composers. I have rarely heard an ensemble that was so effective at each piece they played, so precise and well-practiced. I heard some of the best gamba playing (although his instrument was never really put in the solo role) I've heard (it's a difficult one to play well, in tune, I've found), and the color and rhythmic fantasy of the guitar used in this series only helped to increase the pleasure-level already being pumped by baroque superstar, Manfredo Kraemer. A good concert, and an impetus to check out more by Savall and his colleagues on record.

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