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Handel & Rameau

Passacaglia and Gigue from Radamisto; Concerto grosso Op.6 No.10
Rameau Ballet Suite from Acante et Céphise

European Union Baroque Orchestra/Lars Ulrik Mortensen

Christ Church, Spitalfields
12 December 2006 7.30–8.30pm

This was a nice little concert by the European training orchestra which has helped raised standards of early music performance and made a great impression upon us at Blackheath some years back when it was under Roy Goodman's direction.

This year's EUBO intake is practically all young women in their earlyish twenties and they showed the results of good training in baroque style. Tuning was notably excellent, as was the collective lustrous tone, favoured by the acoustics of Hawksmoor's Christchurch. That had been triumphantly restored, its gleaming white interior now one of the glories of London's ecclesiastical architecture: "It may have taken more than a quarter of a century to complete and needed the largest grant ever given by the Heritage Lottery Fund to a church... now can we fully understand the masterpiece of the man who has a good claim to be Britain's greatest architect, Nicholas Hawksmoor... this meticulously accurate restoration is a revelation." (The Telegraph).

String music by Handel was supported by chamber organ; for fifteen dance pieces by Rameau from a "heroic pastoral" with "more inventive music than its puerile plot deserves" (Grove New Dictionary of Opera), there were a bassoon and oboes at the back (doubling briefly nearly inaudible recorder) and the EUBO's current "charismatic director" Lars Ulrik Mortensen (a fine harpsichordist; see our reviews of his recordings of CPE & JS Bach).

Mortensen sat at the harpsichord, fingering the keyboard occasionally (scarcely to be heard) whilst gesticulating immoderately, which might have helped enliven rehearsals.

The string of dances, pleasing to hear, nevertheless felt incomplete without dance, and left us in mind of the superbly managed dance elements in the RAM's recent student realisation of Rameau's Dardanus.

Mortensen told us that the advantage of a short concert is that you never run out of encores! The audience did not respond to that challenge and everyone departed after his second one, a short piece by Muffat.

Are these events conceived as interludes on the way home after work, or mainly for local residents? Those of us who travelled far and long to Spitalfields through the rush hour vicissitudes could look back upon a brief and pleasant musical oasis in all the London bustle - in our case comprised by an extra unscheduled delay, with transfer to another bus whilst half a dozen burly police dealt with the aftermath of a fight on the upper deck!

It was hard to understand why the eager young players were not allowed to give us more than an hour's music (tickets up to £20)? Another half hour of music, with a singer or virtuoso soloist, would have left us better nourished.

Peter Grahame Woolf