Friday, March 31, 2017

Bach's Journeys - the Ricercar Consort (Belgium) performs at the 2017 Bach in Jerusalem Festival

Philippe Perlot,Maude Gratton,Enrico Gatti (Maxim Reider)
Three members of the renowned Ricercar Consort performed on the opening day of the second Bach in Jerusalem Festival (March 20th-25th 2017). The concert – “Bach’s Journeys” – took place in the Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall of Friendship of the Jerusalem International YMCA. Performing the concert were the ensemble’s director Philippe Pierlot (viola da gamba), Enrico Gatti (violin) and Maude Gratton (harpsichord). Formed in Belgium in 1980 along with the Ricercar label, the Ricercar Consort, focusing mostly on music of the 17th century, is one of the foremost groups performing Baroque music.

Two works from Dietrich Buxtehude’s opus 1 and 2 Sonatas, their scoring typical of the north German chamber tradition, were played with much charm, refinement and the excitement of the then new “stylus phantasticus”.  The players exercised both close collaboration and freedom in playing that set the yardstick for an evening of intelligent and balanced performance, devoid of tasteless affectations.  A rare treat was hearing two solo J.S.Bach sonatas with harpsichord (of which there are so few), first the Violin Sonata in E-minor BWV 1023, in which Gatti set out the work’s narrative with linear clarity and with emotion, tugging at the heart strings as he lingered just a little longer on a dissonance yet to be resolved; in the BWV 1029 Sonata, with Pierlot and Gratton’s interweaving of melodies creating vivid interest, meeting on poetic dissonance in the intimate central Adagio movement, then launched into their rich, energetic realization of the final Allegro movement.

Harpsichordist Maude Gratton’s sparkling solo playing included three movements from Bach’s Partita No.6, opening with the complex, mammoth Toccata, in which she juxtaposed intellect with depth of expression; her playing of the Ricercar à 3 from the Musical Offering made a strong case for the work probably largely being written for keyboard as she researched and explored the living textures of the piece Bach chose to call “ricercar” rather than “fugue”.

The Ricercar Consort concluded its concert with J-P. Rameau’s Troisième Concert, their reading of the work, unique in its setting for harpsichord with accompanying instruments, reflecting the variety, temperament and moments of the unanticipated in Rameau’s expressive mature style, the artists’ gently-swayed playing of the hypnotic undulating thirds of “La Timide” (2nd movement) followed by a pair of jaunty, revved-up Timbourins, the Provençal dance quite a favourite in Rameau operas.

The three Ricercar Consort players’ eloquent and subtle playing delighted the festival audience with the best of Baroque music for violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord.


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