The Sixteen at Christmas

The Sixteen at Christmas
Harry Christophers, Frances Kelly (
harp)
The Anvil, Basingstoke, 4 December 2019

As their 40th anniversary year draws to a close, The Sixteen’s seasonal tour of their ‘Sixteen at Christmas‘ programme stopped by at Basingstoke’s Anvil concert hall for a varied selection of music for Advent and Christmas. Their focus was on traditional medieval and 20th and 21st-century composers, most of the latter influenced by former. Until the Ding dong encore, it avoided all the usual carols of childhood memory. The key piece was the concluding Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten, a sequence of pieces based on medieval texts that he started writing during a 1942 Atlantic crossing. Continue reading

OAE ‘Bach goes to Paris’

‘Bach goes to Paris’
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, William Christie
The Anvil, Basingstoke. 28 June 2017

Campra Suite: Les Fêtes Vénetiennes
JCF Fischer Suite no. 7 from Le journal de printemps
Bach Suite no. 4
Rameau Suite: Les Indes Galantes
Bach Suite no. 3

‘Bach goes to Paris’? No, of course he didn’t, but in a way Paris, or at least, France, came to Bach, through the experience of other musicians and of studying scores, notably De Grigny’s Livre d’Orgue, which he copied out by hand. But, if he had have gone to Paris, I wonder what he would have made of Campra’s Les Fêtes Vénetiennes, an early example of the opéra-ballet genre. Much revised and revived after its 1710 opening, it clocked up around 300 performances over the following 50 years. With sections with titles such as the Triumph of Folly over Reason during the Carnival, Serenades and gamblers, and The acrobats of St Mark’s Square, or Cupid the acrobat, the lively series of depictions of carnival time in Paris gave a wonderful introduction to the livelier side of French music of the period. Particularly notable were Stephen Farr’s delightful little harpsichord twiddles during the rests in the Gigue, and Jude Carlton’s inventive percussion including, at one stage, castanets. it ends in a surprisingly elegant Chaconne – an example of French bon gout that was perhaps absent in some of the earlier moments. Continue reading

Handel: Theodora

Handel: Theodora
Basingstoke Choral Society, Hanover Band, Erica Eloff
The Anvil, Basingstoke. 2 July 2016

Local choral societies do not normally come within my reviewing remit, but the addition of the period instrument orchestra, The Hanover Band and the outstanding soprano Erica Eloff to the event at my local concert hall proved irresistible. The Basingstoke Choral Society has local roots going back to the late 19th century. An 1889 programme of a performance of Elijah by its predecessor, the Basingstoke Musical Society, mentions a choir of around 100 singers. For this performance of Handel’s oratorio Theodora, they fielded 108 singers, with 38 sopranos, 38 altos, 13 tenors and 18 bass singers, arranged in six rows overflowing from the stage on the rear stalls seats.

Theordora is a curious work. One of Handel’s least successful productions, it only ran for three poorly attended performances, and was only revived once during Handel’s lifetime. It was one of his last oratorios, written when Handel was 64, and is now seen as a masterpiece, with some notably arias and choruses. The story is unusual when compared with other Handel oratorios and operas. It is based on the story of a fourth century Princess who refused to Continue reading

Wind in Basingstoke

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment brought their programme of music for winds to Basingstoke’s Anvil, the day after their performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (6 Feb).  Under the banner of the OAE’s ‘Flying the Flag’ series, they focussed on central Europe and Bohemia, with Mozart and his little-known friend Josef Mysliveček, as well as the later Bohemian composer Josef Triebensee, who arranged movements of Don Giovanni for the Prince of Lichenstein’s harmonie wind band around 1790.  The evening opened with Mozart’s monumental so-called ‘Gran Partita’ (Serenade No 10 for 13 wind instruments); nearly an hour of music of the most extraordinary intensity, and given an exceptional performance by the OAE players.  I particularly liked the way that they slightly extended some key rests, adding to the air of suspense.  Josef Mysliveček met the young Mozart in Bologna, and was an early influence despite their later falling out.  The composer of some 29 operas and 55 Symphonies, the jolly little Wind Octet No.2 in E flat (discovered not so long ago in a pile of manuscripts in the Black Forest) was probably not the finest work to display his talents, but the OAE (in the more traditional wind band grouping of 8 players) bought out his humour of his writing, not least in one little passage where a oboe scale was finished off, after a slight pause, by the second oboe.  The choice of Triebensee’s arrangement of Don Giovanni was apt, as the opera itself includes an on-stage wind band playing an arrangement of Mozart’s own Figaro – Mozart’s dig at the bourgeoisie habit of background music.  A fine oboist himself, Triebensee played the tricky second oboe part in the first performance of The Magic Flute, and makes much of the oboe in his arrangements, generally of soprano arias.  Although lacking a vocal line, his arrangements are clever reinterpretations of Mozart’s originals, and formed a light-hearted end to what had possible been a rather heavy evening for Basingstoke’s concert goers.

[https://andrewbensonwilson.org/2015/03/30/wind-in-basingstoke-6-feb-2015/]