Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Gig-a-Blog™ (Sweelinck Ensemble, St Anne & St Agnes)

This concert - yesterday, Monday 23d July - was the first lunchtime event in St Anne and St Agnes' Bach Festival, which began on Sunday night. The main lunchtime concert series is now finished for the summer but this festival runs this week with lunchtime and evening events: it's an excellent programme.

Because they're doing the Coffee Cantata the festival is mildly coffee-themed, so for example there's a "guess how many coffee beans in the jar" competition. I thought I'd had a good shot at an estimate (based on my vast experience of estimating bird flock numbers, as recommended by the Young Ornithologists' Club) but now, thinking about it again, I feel it's probably over the top to a laughable degree. Oh well.

Here, in accordance with long-established tradition, are what of my gibberings I can tidy up a touch while First Capital Connect (love that snappy name) drives me homewards. The Sweelinck Ensemble by the way is in effect the house band - they are based there (I think) and their director Martin Knizia is the church's cantor. They're good.

  • Suite no. 2 in Bm, BWV 1067
    This performance included the wonderful flautist Rachel Latham, whom I last saw in Richmond with Leeds Baroque Orchestra doing Vivaldi very nicely. The whole thing was gorgeous. I have a soft spot for the Badinerie for reasons which are not very right-on in Baroque performance terms (can you say "Maurice Andre piccolo trumpet"? Well don't.)
  • Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 - Affetuoso
    Very pretty. Some lovely low flute-playing. Just the one movement - Rachel, Hazel Brooks and Martin. Wonderful.
  • Coffee Cantata BWV 211
    Acting! Ah yes, a cantata with acting and laughter. You probably know all about this secular cantata but I didn't, not really, so it was a new joy for me. Like so many plots from then-a-when-ago this one doesn't nowadays seem to make absolute sense, but it was great fun anyway. Dad doesn't like his daughter drinking coffee (why?): she has plans, whether or not she's getting married, to continue regardless. OK, it's not the Ring cycle but it did give the singers a chance to ham it up a bit in a rather excellent way. There are some genuinely funny moments. It's great. I don't really think I've heard Bach letting his hair down (er, wig/off/etc, please patch your own metaphor) like this before. It was performed with considerable verve by this nice band. A few minutes of great enjoyment, enhanced yet further with a real coffee and a biccie.

I returned to the office clutching a massive jar of home-made strawberry jam which was being sold off the coffee table, having been made by the fair and priestly hand of Jana herself. It looks great and I'm very excited as it is almost bound to be better than strawberry jam made by irreligious persons. Plus, I know exactly where to complain if not. It's a win-win situation innit.

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