Irish Baroque Orchestra at University Church, St Stephen’s Green, on 22 November 2015
Today the Irish Baroque Orchestra performs with guest director Lars Ulrik Mortensen. Acclaimed both as a harpsichordist and for his work directing Danish ensemble Concerto Copenhagen and the EU Baroque Orchestra, this concert marks the beginning of a three-year collaboration between the IBO and EUBO. Collaborations and – conversely – perceptions of foreignness appropriately form the theme of this short afternoon concert.
Telemann’s cosmopolitan Suite in G, subtitled ‘The Old and New Nations’, includes three paired musical portraits of the ‘ancient and modern’ styles of the Germans, Swedes and Danes. Mortensen introduces each section with an appropriately dry wit, even finding in the ‘Danish’ movements a depiction of the mixed fortunes of his national football team. The contrasts between the various slow (‘old’) and fast (‘new’) styles are well-projected by the ensemble, expertly led by violinist Claire Duff. Duff remains on stage with Mortensen and cellist Sarah McMahon for the Violin Sonata in G minor by Corelli, in the version with embellishments by the Irish-based violinist Matthew Dubourg. Sparkling and assured, Duff’s brilliant playing is nicely offset by the punchy accompaniment of the two continuo players.
Mortensen contrasts the Italianism of Corelli, via Dubourg, with his own transcription of Bach’s French-inspired ‘Chaconne’ (from the Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor). Expertly arranged for solo harpsichord and beautifully played, Mortensen’s understated approach to this famous virtuoso piece flows easily between elegant, courtly restraint and the rapid fingerwork of the dizzying faster sections, maintaining a transparent texture throughout.
The ensemble returns to play Bach’s Suite No. 3 in D, in its ‘original’ version for strings only (as argued by musicologist Joshua Rifkin). As with the Telemann, the group performs with engaging clarity and cohesiveness, and there is an excellent feeling for balance across the group from the resonant drive of the basses to the stylish brilliance of the top line. The famous ‘Air’ (on a G string) features, with lovely interplay between the two violin lines. The crisp tempi and vibrant playing engage and draw the listener in, leaving us wanting more.
Georg Philipp Telemann: Suite in G major, TWV55/G4, ‘Ouverture des nations anciens et modernes’
Arcangelo Corelli: Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 5 no. 5, with embellishments by Matthew Dubourg
Johann Sebastian Bach: Chaconne in A minor (from Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin, BWV1004), transcribed for harpsichord by Lars Ulrik Mortensen
Bach: Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV1068, version for strings only