Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
May 16 2019
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
Brightly gleaming Bach infused with grandeur and gaiety
It was quite hard to sit still during the OAE’s performance on Thursday of Bach’s four Orchestral Suites. Feet were itching to get onto the dance floor as if an 18th century version of Strictly was in full swing. If you ever think of Bach as churchy and academic, these Suites would be the perfect antidote; yes, each opening movement is quite grand but then the dances (almost 30 altogether) flow, working their irresistible charm on their listeners.
The OAE have this music in their veins. Each member is a skilled exponent of the baroque style and each plays either a period instrument or a beautifully crafted modern replica. Individually they sound fresh and incisive; together they produce an unusual sweetness of sound, rhythmically buoyant and with lots of imaginative insights into speeds and phrasing. They are democratic in their approach with no permanent Director, although on this occasion violinist Margaret Faultless was at the helm, ensuring that ensemble was tight and elegantly responding to audience enthusiasm.
The two Suites in D (featuring trumpets) gleamed brightly, combining both grandeur and gaiety. When it came to the famous ‘Air on a G String’, the audience was actually asked to comment on the chosen tempo – and most judged it to be ‘just right’, not surprising perhaps as this was a performance which took account of how the dances move as well as how they sound to the ear. The Bourée is the only dance to appear in all four Suites and each time it felt ‘just right’ the OAE achieving remarkable consistency of tempo and spirit.
One of the concert’s highlights was the baroque flute playing of Lisa Beznosiuk in the second Suite. She produced a lovely sound: crisply articulated phrasing and a warm, rounded tone – on a wooden instrument with only one key. Her attention to detail and close rapport with like-minded colleagues were hallmarks of the concert as a whole.
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment directed by Margaret Faultless, with Lisa Beznosiuk (flute)