mon 04/12/2023

Le Concert Spirituel, Christ Church Spitalfields | reviews, news & interviews

Le Concert Spirituel, Christ Church Spitalfields

Le Concert Spirituel, Christ Church Spitalfields

French Baroque specialists take musical journey around early 18th-century Europe

Le Concert SpirituelPhoto: Eric Manas

The magnificent Christ Church Spitalfields is a masterpiece of the British baroque and very much an ideal venue for this Spitalfields Winter Festival visit by French period instrument group Le Concert Spirituel. Travelling as a chamber ten-piece without conductor Hervé Niquet, the group performed a selection of early 18th-century works from across Europe, bringing in Muffat, Purcell, Biber, Zelenka, Charpentier, Corelli and Bach.

As cellist Tormod Dalen explained in a short address to the audience, the instruments were faithful to the period, bearing mostly naked gut strings, but with the odd steel-wound one thrown in, as would likely have been the case in the period. You put up with lots of tuning between movements and the odd iffy intonation, but get a wonderfully lithe sound in return – especially in such capable hands.

Leader Alice Piérot directed from the violin, but really the members of the group – standing apart from the cellos and theorbo – were in constant communication with each other, the beat of a baton replaced with the swaying dance of bodies keeping time, darting eyes and the odd smile too. How much more involving it is for the audience when the musicians seem to be enjoying themselves too.

Opening with a suite by Muffat, the musicians established their bouncy, effervescent style, with beautifully shaped phrases and a real sense of the underlying dance metre. A selection of shorter works followed, including Purcell’s delightful Fantasia Upon One Note.

Charpentier’s Pour un Reposoir opened the second half and, and if so far there are been plenty of elegance and textural interest, the real drama and invention were saved for the end with the big hitters of Corelli’s Op 6 No 8 concerto grosso – the Christmas Cocerto – and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 3. Theorbist Etienne Galletier, who had until then been mostly lost in the texture, got a good stint in the spotlight with a florid cadenza between the two fast movements of the Bach.

These so familiar works shone very brightly in Le Concert Spirituel’s reading, the intricate counterpoint threading between the instruments with great clarity. 


How much more involving it is for the audience when the musicians seem to be enjoying themselves too


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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