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Baroque Journeys: Bohemia

Schmelzer Balletto a 4 Fechtschule in G
Biber Sonata No.6 in F
Muffat Sonata No.2 in G minor
Mayr Passacaglia-Grave in B flat major
Biber Sonata a 6 Die pauern-Kirchfarth (The People go to Church)
Muffat Sonata No.5 in G from Armonico Tributo
Biber Battalia a 10 in D

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Rachel Podger

Queen Elizabeth Hall, 24 May 2007

Schmelzer, Biber, Muffa and Mayr, but no Bach, Handel or Vivaldi - not the way to fill QEH, but there was a good sized audience to enjoy this 17 C fare.

It was a nice programme of lesser known and characterful pieces, from full orchestra of 22 strings and four continuo, down to smaller groups as appropriate. The evening was enlivened by the programme music and oddities (processing around the hall for The People go to Church, and weird discordancy and enhanced percussion effects from double bass in Battalia.

Rachel Podger enjoyed chatting us up from the stage and we listening to her; she'd got mixed up between her Mayrs (it was R.I, not another of the dynasty) but they left in his Passacaglia because it is so gorgeous etc; maybe OAE's bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku MBE will steer it towards Classic FM glory to join 'that' Albinoni, in her new Sunday afternoon show Radio 3 Requests... Another Passacaglia, Muffat's, held the record for duration; we were told it would be alright to let our thoughts wander during its 10 minute span...

Near the front Rachel was only just clearly audible; further back, who knows? Why was she not provided with a microphone for her story-telling? And, re microphones and amplification, I take this opportunity to remark on the deadening taped announcements which we have to suffer every time we go to South Bank. The excessive volume of the standard exhortations to mute our mobiles etc is quite out of scale; and the misleading messages outside about the imminent commencement of the concerts and their resumptions after the intervals - never does the music start "in one minute" etc as promised! Wouldn't the atmosphere be bettered if these messages were given live by a member of house-staff on duty; it would be refreshing to hear different voices...

b.t.w: The same applies in spades to similar recorded announcements on the Tube to and from South Bank Centre; not to leave our property unattended; not to impede lift doors from shutting, etc, etc, all repeated by their always the same voices, monotonously ad nauseam; they will be imprinted in our brains far more deeply than the music we'd prefer to remember...

Peter Grahame Woolf