Sunday 10 May 2015

Wigmore Hall Late - English Concert and Tom Green Septet

Alison Balsom and English Concert at Wigmore Hall - photo credit Simon Jay Price
Alison Balsom and the English Concert
photo Simon Jay Price
Handel, Purcell, Tom Green; Lucy Crowe, Tim Mead, Alison Balsam, English Concert, Trevor Pinnock; Wigmore Hall lates
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on May 8 2015
Star rating: 5.0

Blowing away post-election blues with a terrific evening of baroque trumpet music and jazz

The new season of Wigmore Hall Lates started last night (Friday, 8 May 2015) at the Wigmore Hall with performances from Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert, with soprano Lucy Crowe, counter-tenor Tim Mead and trumpeter Alison Balsom in Sound the Trumpet, a programme of music for voice and trumpet by Handel and Purcell. Followed by jazz from the Tom Green Septet.

Tim Mead, Lucy Crowe and English Concert at Wigmore Hall - photo credit Simon Jay Price
Tim Mead, Lucy Crowe & the English Concert
photo Simon Jay Price
Wigmore Hall Lates are very much evenings of two halves, so we had an hour of Purcell and Handel in the concert hall, with music from Handel's Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, Atalanta, Purcell's Fairy Queen, King Arthur, Come ye sons of art away and the Duke of Gloucester's Birthday Ode. Then afterwards, in the bar the jazz ensemble, the Tom Green Septet were in more relaxed mood.

Not that the concert from the English Concert was not relaxed, as Trevor Pinnock introduced all the items and even brought in a sly reference to the election (when he opened the lid of the blue harpsichord to reveal the contrasting red of the lid). The English Concert consisted of five strings (two violins, viola, cello and bass), plus two oboes and one bassoon, whilst Trevor Pinnock alternated between harpsichord and organ. They were joined by trumpeter Alison Balsom, who played the whole programme on a natural trumpet. This was so long that I hoped that she had good eyesight as her music stand was a very long distance away!

Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert - photo Simon Jay Price
Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert
photo Simon Jay Price
They started with the opening aria, Eternal source of light divine from Handel's Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne which showed Handel at his most Purcellian, with counter-tenor Tim Mead duetting with Alison Balsom's trumpet, the pair producing some superb long lines and balancing very finely. A love work, superbly done. This was followed by the crisply grand overture to Handel's Atalanta with Alison Balsom's trumpet joining the ensemble,

Next we moved to Purcell, with the first of a number of chaconnes in the programme with Purcell's Chacony in G minor to which Trevor Pinnock and the ensemble brought a lovely swaying dance feel to the underlying rhythm. This was followed by Lucy Crowe singing The Plaint from The Fairy Queen. Lucy Crowe sang with a simple, plangent tone and great intensity of line, creating something beautiful and expressive, nicely matched by Alison Balsom who again showed superb skill in balancing the voice.

We then moved to an instrumental sequence from King Arthur with a very grand, but still danceable, Chaconne, a Symphony which was effectively a lovely duet for trumpet and violin, and then the chorus Come if you dare arranged as a sort of duel between trumpet and everyone else!

Handel's Chaconne in G for solo harpsichord, BWV435 was a work that he seems to have played a lot, and Trevor Pinnock gave us a lively and richly large-scale performance with the instruments joining in at the very end (reflecting that a manuscript exists with an instrumental version).

The duet Sound the trumpet from Come ye sons of art away was done as a delightful duet between Tim Mead and Alison Balsom. This was followed by the less well known overture from Purcell's Duke of Gloucester's Birthday Ode with a lovely solo trumpet part for Alison Balsom. Then a further group of movements from the Fairy Queen. Lucy Crowe gave an entrancingly characterful account of If love's a sweet passion followed by the Prelude from Act V, then Lucy Crowe returned to duet with Alison Balsom in Hark! The echoing air. After a final chaconne, Tim Mead joined Lucy Crowe, Alison Balsom, Trevor Pinnock and the ensemble (the first time everyone had performed together that evening), for the chorus They shall be as happy. The audience were do entranced, that they performed it again.

But that was not the end of the evening, though some people did leave many went down to the bar to for some more terrific trumpet playing of a slightly different kind, with the Tom Green Septet performing jazz (the trumpet was equally exotic as Alison Balsom's as James Davison played mainly flugelhorn).

Tom Green is a young jazz trombonist and composer, and the septet performed a sequence of his own tunes (he won the 2013 Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition). The septet is Tom Green, trombone, James Davison, trumpet/flugelhorn, Tommy Andrews, alto/soprano saxophones, Sam Miles, tenor saxophone, Sam James, piano, Misha Mullov-Abbado, double bass and Scott Chapman, drums, and they made a lovely relaxed end to the evening. A terrific party!

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