Sunday, May 1, 2011

Conflicted over modern performances of baroque music part 1

Although I'm all for the promotion of baroque music, I’ve become conflicted after attending the most recent all-baroque concert by the National Arts Centre Orchestra. The performance included one of my all time favourites, Corelli’s Concerto Grosso Op.6 no. 4, as well as a few very interesting Handel Arias and was played at a very high technical standard. Although the performance was very ‘clean’ I couldn’t help but feel that it gave off the air that baroque music lacked depth, a common comment I hear from modern orchestra-goers. Another bothering part of the performance involved the soloists in the concerto grosso remaining in their seats and not being acknowledged at the end. The write-up in the program mentioned that Corelli’s music is usually left in the realm of ‘historically informed performers’, maybe it’s such a rarity to perform a concerto grosso that the conductor didn’t think to acknowledge the soloists? The conductor, Mr. McGegan, was brought in from the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra so surely that must not be the case.

It was hard for me to watch as the audience bounced, to the spring in the conductor’s beating, their heads up and down while the most beautiful moments in the Corelli were skimmed through by the orchestra. There have been two recordings of the Corelli that I think are both worth mentioning here: one being by The New Dutch Academy, the other by Ensemble L’aura Soave. You can see the video by the latter group below:
The Handel Arias, refreshingly, were quite well sung. Unfortunate for the singers, though, was the attempt at trying to act out a romance story through songs from 4 different opere. Even more disturbing was Amanda Forsyth’s, the NACO’s principal cellist, attempt at basso continuo. Large amounts of vibrato and intense articulation, I’m sure Handel would have a wonderful quip for her if he were conducting.
After hearing more than my share in the first half, I left in time to catch up with my taxes.

More on this later…

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