Trevor Pinnock and his harpsichord were often content to toil away in the background while the string-players took the limelight. But if a single star of the show emerged it was Pinnock, with a compelling account of the Froberger, a short work, even slight, but Pinnock gave it depth and expansiveness. He made every note count, with the first movement’s unornamented two-octave scale ascending heavenward at the end and all the more plaintive for its contrast with the rich decoration that preceded it; and there was enormous richness to the intensely ornamented ‘Sarabande’, one of those pieces where the music as played bears almost no resemblance to the score as printed.
Earlier the ensemble reminded us why Buxtehude is a composer we should hear more of; the slower passages were especially persuasive although there was an exhilarating energy elsewhere too, and attractively clear counterpoint. A little-heard piece from Hacquart was less convincing, and rather episodic, but the string tone was golden.
All three composers were from the generation or two before Bach and Handel. We leapt forward into a less deeply-felt, more straightforwardly entertaining eighteenth-century with the concluding Handel, but that’s not to say it was superficial or lacking in nuance. Handel also provided the encore, an unhurried and nicely-phrased rendering of the ‘Passacaille’ from Opus 5/4.
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