Arcangelo & Neal Davies
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 9 May 2015
Bach, Albinoni, Telemann
The latest of the candlelit concerts in the Shakespeare Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse was given by Arcangelo (9 May). They were founded in 2010 by Jonathan Cohen, and appear in formats ranging from a duo to a chamber orchestra. On this occasion they were a small string group plus oboe, theorbo, and continuo organ/harpsichord, joined at the end by baritone Neal Davis (replacing his indisposed cousin Iestyn Davies).
The programme was one of contrasts, ranging from the frolics of Telemann’s Don Quichotte Suite to Bach’s serene cantata Ich habe genug. The size of the group resulted in a number of instrumental compromises, for example in Telemann’s Sonata Spirituosa (TWV 44:1) which fielded an oboe in place of the specified trumpet, and his Sonata for violin, viola da gamba and continuo (TWV 42:h620) which used a viola in place of the viola da gamba, producing a very different sound. It was not helped by some rather emphatic playing from the viola player (here and in other pieces), in contrast to the delicately sensitive and musical violin playing of Cecilia Bernadini. She had opened the concert in a similarly musical manner with Bach’s Violin Sonata (BWV 1021).
Katharina Spreckelsen excelled as soloist in Albinoni’s Oboe Concerto in d (Op 9/2), the Adagio second movement being particularly effective as the oboe poured soothing balm on the insistent arpeggios of the violins. As if to get its own back, the final movement started with an emphatic arpeggio from the oboe.
Although the two Jonathans, Cohen & Manson, (harpsichord & cello) provided excellent continuo support, I wasn’t at all sure about the continuo theorbo. This seemed far too dominant, both in volume and the frequent addition of counter-melodies and distracting twiddles, often out of keeping with the mood of the piece.
Don Quichotte and the later Telemann Sonata Spirituosa were given spirited readings but, in a programme of musical contrasts, the highlight came at the end with Neal Davies empathetic singing of Bach’s exquisite Ich habe genug (‘I have enough’). As if to reinforce the beautifully subdued mood he had created, Davies’s encore was the sleep-inducing song of Somnus (from Handel’s Semele), ‘Leave me, loathsome light / Receive me, silent night!’, spiriting two of the large playhouse candelabra’s up to the ceiling, and puffing out his own music desk candles at the end. A nice touch to end the evening.