The Bach Players at Hatchlands

David Hansell wrote about our Hatchlands concert, 7 May 2015, for Early Music Review.

Awful though the fire at nearby Clandon Park House was, the musical world will have been relieved that it wasn’t at Hatchlands, where the spectacular Cobbe Collection of keyboard instruments continues to be in use for demonstrations and concerts. On Election Night the visitors were The Bach Players, who were given use of the Ruckers/Hemsch (1636/1763) harpsichord for their programme of French music – Jacquet de La Guerre, Couperin and Marais. The rich sound of this wonderful instrument provided a lush, though not overwhelming, backing to both the Marais works – a spectacular reading of the well-known Sonnerie and the Arabesque for solo viol with continuo, played by Reiko Ichise with apparently effortless virtuosity and consummate control of its rhetorical flourishes. It was a relief (in the wake of recent over-kaleidoscopic recordings) to hear Couperin’s La Françoise played with an unchanging string sonority which had the effect of drawing attention to the music’s many masterly qualities, especially the contrapuntal interplay. In the long sequence of sonata plus dances (though with the interval cunningly placed in the middle) the choice of tempo and the management of its many changes was a great strength – as it was throughout the evening. But in her anniversary year (b. 1665) the music of Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre took centre-stage. Her keyboard music has become reasonably familiar in recent years and Silas Wollston took the opportunity to display both it and the Ruckers/Hemsch to their mutual advantage. Not all the manual changes reflected the musical structures, but we did get a thorough demonstration of the instrument’s resources. Less familiar, though excellent, trio sonatas opened and closed the programme. These established and confirmed the excellent rapport of The Bach Players. The tuning between the violins (Nicolette Moonen and Oliver Webber) was particularly sweet, whether in the comparatively friendly D major or the more intense C minor of the concluding work. By any standards, this was a rewarding evening.

Early Music Review, June 2015

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