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Founded in 1985 (the tercentenary of Handel's birth) and directed from the harpsichord by Steven Devine, this was a splendid concert, well supported by a Sunday afternoon audience of some sixty enthusiasts.

In Thomas Tallis' Greenwich church (his own organ console is displayed there) the 20-odd forces on baroque instruments (originals and copies) made a fine, big sound, with three excellent singers, sopranos and mezzo, each with imposing CVs in the well produced informative programme. Their voices were each distinctive, but blended well in duets and a final trio. The songs were introduced by each of the singers in turn, introducing their roles and explaining the usual love mismatches...

The Linden Baroque Orchestra combines young professionals, students and amateurs (a colleague of mine who was there had led it for sixteen years). Many former and present members have become prominent in the early music field. To Greenwich they brought 14 strings, with oboes and bassoon to add weight and variety; from near front the strings sounded a little rough at times (I stress "a little" - no more so than I guess would have been usual in Handel's own time) and the Colin Booth harpsichord was practically inaudible.

So I moved upstairs for the second half (picture), from where there was a warm blend of tones and the orchestra sounded smooth and rich - not feasible for the audience to do, because from the pews you can only see standing up! From above you could hear the harpsichord too, Steven Devine accompanying whilst conducting vigorously to keep his musicians on their toes, and introducing each item with interesting historical nuggets of information, e.g. that the nine-movement selection from The Alchimist had been borrowed from Handel's opera Rodrigo for a revival of Ben Johnson's play - with or without the composer's knowledge or permission.

A hugely enjoyable event for listeners and, obviously, for all the participants. For Londoners within range, well worth taking note of the next Linden Baroque concert at St Alfege, A Night at the Italian Opera on October 14.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See review of Steven Devine's latest recital CD, Portrait of an English Harpsichord.

Opera from the Restoration period in London

Purcell's The Faerie Queen & King Arthur
Louis Grabu's Albion and Albanius
John Blow's Venus and Adonis

Linden Baroque orchestra/Steven Devine
Kate Semmens (soprano), Giles Davies (Baritone), Seb Harris (alto), and Greg Tassell (tenor)

St Alfege, Greenwich, March 2nd 2008

This was another notable occasion, with a substantial selection of Louis Grabu's extraordinary Masque about England which brings in all the mythological characters one could imagine in an extraordinary concoction. Linden Baroque's inspirational conductor's copious notes about this composer, with his long held desire to re-introduce his music to London after long neglect, set the picture, and were enhanced by Steven Devine's spoken comments. The music features an enhanced middle (violas) texture and the whole efect is uniquely sumptuous, with virtuoso demands upon the strings, brave natural trumpets and recorders doubling oboe and bassoon.

There is a CD here waiting to be commissioned and this team will not let down an adventurous record company. Book ended by Purcell at his finest, and with substantial parts of Venus & Adonis, this was a finely designed and presented programme. Kate Semmens delighted in her several solos and was well partnered in duets with Giles Davies. Few would have guessed that many of the players were not fully professional...

The lovely venue of St Alfege contributed to the whole andmade for a far better experience than some recent prestigious concerts in London's main concert venues. I must repeat my recommendation to look out for Linden Baroque's rather infrequent appearances; the next scheduled for Greenwich will be Music from the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens directed by the distinguished writer and conductor Peter Holman.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Grabu In October Linden baroque celebrates J F Fasch's tercentenary; meawhile, there is their Fasch CD to hear http://www.meridian-records.co.uk/acatalog/Online_Catalogue_CDE_84373_248.html