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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Music review: Treasures of the Baroque was a joyful experience

Le Consort, gave its debut Vancouver performance to an ecstatic response at Christchurch Cathedral on the weekend.

Early Music Vancouver is to be congratulated on its choice of yet another priceless gem in its Luminescence series when Le Consort gave its debut Vancouver performance, dubbed Treasures of the Baroque, to an ecstatic response at Christchurch Cathedral on the weekend.  

Four outstanding young musicians played as one thrilling entity with impeccable precision and the mature, expressive range of those at least twice their age. One exhilarating triumph followed close on the heels of another without pause, particularly in the first half of their superbly balanced programme featuring composers from the 1600s to 1700s throughout Europe and Britain. 

In their first triumph, Antonio Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata in G-minor, Op.2, No.1, each movement segued to the next with hardly a breath to separate them. The pace was brilliant, and the effect was magical. 

In complete contrast, Giovanni Battista Reali’s Violin Sonata Op.2, No.1 resonated with passion and beauty, after which the three string instrumentalists melted into the background as Justin Taylor, director and co-founder of Le Consort, removed his music tablet from the French double-manual harpsichord beautifully crafted in British Columbia and part of EMV’s collection of historical instruments, and played from memory Arcangelo Corelli’s Trio Sonata in C-Major Op.4 No.1 in a spectacular solo performance. 

At the final note and after a minute group sigh, the two violinists promenaded, Baroque-style, to their standing positions, playing the first bars of excerpts from Jean-Philippe’s delightful Les Indes galantes. They were joined by Taylor and cellist Hanna Salzenstein, both playing the bass line to form a trio.

When he published Trio Sonata in G-minor in 1705, Jean-François Dandrieu was only 23, as were the members of Le Consort when they first played it in 2016, the year Taylor and Théotime Langlois de Swarte co-founded Le Consort. So it holds a special place in their hearts, as it did in ours when they played it. 

The programme’s first half ended with a gloriously energetic rendition of Reali’s La Folia (Italian for Folly, originally a Spanish folk dance often rewritten by Italian composers). There would have been dancing in the aisles if we weren’t in a cathedral. 

There was not one hiatus throughout this sublimely rich programme that included more subdued pieces by Purcell and Bach, among others, in the second half. This was remarkable because first violinist Langlois de Swarte was on paternity leave for the birth of his second child, which meant second violinist Sophie de Bardonneche played first violin in his place. In contrast, American Augusta McKay Lodge played second violin in de Bardonneche’s place. 

Even more remarkable is that when another Folia, this time by Vivaldi, closed the concert, all four musicians laid their music aside and played brilliantly without it.

In a word, the whole joyful experience was magnifique.

The next concert in this Luminescence series is Handel: Hallelujah & Tumpets at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on March 24. It promises to be equally joyful. 

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