Opera + Classical Music Reviews

King’s Consort/Lucy Crowe @ Wigmore Hall, London

19 February 2009

Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

Although Lucy Crowe was the billboard artist for this Wigmore Hall concert, she was by no means the only star soloist.

An exhilarating programme devoted to J.S. Bach showcased the individual flair of musicians from The King’s Consort as well as their collective talent under the direction of Matthew Halls.

At its most expansive the ensemble consisted merely of two violins, viola, bass, cello, flute, oboe and harpsichord, but this intimate sound was well suited to two of Bach’s most intense and serious orchestral pieces and the so-called Wedding Cantatas that framed them.

Bach is often credited for releasing the harpsichord from its continuo role. Works such as this Harpsichord Concerto in D minor BWV 1052 were certainly innovative in showcasing the instrument’s solo capabilities, with complex finger-work and glittering cadenzas, and in this respect they may be seen as precursors to the great piano concertos of the later Classical tradition. For Hall, too, it offered an opportunity for display, and his immaculate performance of this frightening and magnificent work was a joy to behold.

Like many German composers in the early eighteenth century, Bach was also quick to assimilate fashionable French styles into his work, evident here in his Orchestral Suite in B minor BWV 1067. This series of short movements based on dances is sombre in tone but the delivery here was wonderfully supple and light-footed.

Given their context, the two Wedding Cantatas served as heartening bookends to the concert and Lucy Crowe did not disappoint. Hyped as up-and-coming a few years back she has since more than proved the worth of her reputation, and her pure and alluring soprano was perfectly suited to these works

Weichet nur betrbte Schatten BWV 202, perhaps the more famous of the two cantatas, seduces the audience as if by stealth: its creeping introduction gives way to a gorgeous, restrained aria that is foreshadowed throughout by an exquisite oboe line, here played superbly by Alexandra Bellamy. Early reserve gradually unravels towards the ‘Sich ben im Lieben’ aria, a delightful jaunt about the frolics of sweet courtship Bach at his most racy, perhaps and Crowe dispatched this with an effortless charm and style.

The text of O holder Tag, erwnschte Zeit BWV 210 uses musical reference as a metaphor for marital harmony, and the music itself is appropriately lavish, with a glorious duet between the flute and soprano. In its celebration of the individual and the ensemble, the piece served as an apt finale to this enjoyable concert.

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