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Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music Festival 2009

The English Dancing Master

Dance tunes and ballads from the theatres, homes and taverns of Baroque London
“A Poem of Dancing,” “The Boatemen,” “The New Scots Jig,” “Assemblee” and “A la Mode de France.”

The Harp Consort/Andrew Lawrence-King, director
Photo: Tim Feak

St John's Smith Square, London May 16th, 2009

This early evening show was a brilliant introduction to the ten day Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music Festival 2009, focusing upon the year's Handel and Purcell celebrations.

Andrew Lawrence-King and his players varied their instruments and contributed song and spoken texts, most notably Lawrence-King's superb, though unforced, diction, which had lessons for the opera singers later that evening.

Seemingly the St John's stage had little space for dancing, but Steven Player created every imaginable opportunity, sometimes climbing into the audience. Clearly well schooled in the historical styles, he dominated at every appearance, integrating with the musicians - also becoming one of them on guitar.

Simple costume choices created the right period feeling, and each of the musicians made a personal, individual mark.The whole show combined great good humour with meticulous development which must have brought delight to many audiences in the group's touring performances. Once they have exhausted welcoming venues, it richly deserves being made more widely available on DVD?

Peter Grahame Woolf

For a detailed review read a fine blogger's appreciation by an "American ex-pat on a budget".

Eccles & Purcell

John Eccles The Judgement of Paris
Henry Purcell Masque from 'Dioclesian'

Early Opera Company/Christian Curnyn
Lucy Crowe, soprano
Claire Booth, soprano
Susan Bickley, mezzo soprano
Jeremy Budd, tenor
Roderick Williams, baritone
Andrew Foster-Williams, bass

16 May 2009, St John's, Smith Square London

This was an enjoyable concert, but the first half of Eccles (Finger and Eccles are small talents - the latter's cakes are more distinctive than his music!) passed pleasantly enough but was soon upstaged by the greater originality of Purcell's.

Bacchus's trio "Drink and despise the political ass" rang a topical bell at St John's, a stone's throw from our compromised Parliament...

Before the performance of the Dioclesian music, a prestigious success for the Early Opera Company was announced; their recording of Semele had been awarded The Stanley Sadie Handel Prize. [Reviewed at http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd/HandelSemeleEOC.html]eccles

The sound at St John's is a little muddied half way back(front and extreme back are best there) and we felt that the EOC was in need of a "consonants coach", so indistinct were the words of the distinguished lady singers in particular. Roderick Williams impressed, as he always does, and Jeremy Budd has a pleasing light tenor.

The Eccles Judgement of Paris is far more vivid and involving on the EOC's recent Chandos/Chaconne CD, in which Benjamin Hulett is a winning Paris.

150 years of English song
including music by Dowland, Lawes, Purcell and Green

Emma Kirkby, soprano/ Jakob Lindberg, lute/theorbo/ Steven Devine, harpsichord

21 May 2009 St John's, Smith Square, London

This made for a pleasant evening, a well attended tribute to Emma Kirkby and her long career. The choices were thoughtful, many of them relatively unfamiliar.

A special feature was the sharing of accompaniments with lutes and harpsichord, and solos on both. Kirkby needs to take care with her voice nowadays, and it has lost some of its characterful brilliance.

Although voice and lutes came across quite well, the venue really is too large for this intimate music. One was reminded, nostalgically, of an unforgettable Emma Kirkby recital in Blackheath Halls with Anthony Rooley, when the musicians came down off the Recital Room platform, sitting close amongst the audience whose seats were re-arranged in a semicircle around them...

Hopefully, this programme will re-appear on CD?

Peter Grahame Woolf

See Emma Kirkby's Purcell Master Class at Trinity College of Music