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Burghclere Baroque: Her sweet-toned violin filled the church with joyful, melodious sounds'

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Burghclere Baroque: Myths & Legends, Canzona at the Church of the Ascension, Burghclere, on Friday, October 8

Review by Charles Medlam

Theresa Caudle’s excellent series of baroque concerts in Burghclere continues. No-one who has not put on a concert can imagine everything that goes into it and, as if that were not enough, violinist Theresa sometimes plays as well.

Burghclere Baroque
Burghclere Baroque

She was joined by her brother Mark on bass viol, Alistair Ross on harpsichord and sought-after bass-baritone Stuart O’Hara, for the cantatas.

At Louis XIV’s death in 1715, the austere gravity of his court was quickly replaced by a new rococo insouciance, led in part by the Regent Philippe d’Orléans, himself a fine bass-viol player. Louis XV’s age pursued pleasure with unabashed single-mindedness, and the new atmosphere, plus a growing bourgeoisie, encouraged an explosion of sonatas, suites and cantatas for domestic use.

The usually anonymous librettist of a chamber cantata would take a tale from classical mythology or history (storms and invocations particularly popular), narrate a part of it and round it off with a pithy “moral-of-the-story” aria. It was a perfect way to flatter an audience into feeling sophisticated and well-educated.

In Rameau’s Aquilon et Orithie, the North Wind has failed to win the Athenian princess by persuasion, but rage and kidnap triumph. The conclusion? “In the mysteries of love, one can always find the means to seduce.” His Thétis is perhaps more in tune with our times. In pursuit of the beautiful Nereid, Neptune tries a storm, Jupiter some thunderbolts, but she doesn’t want either, she will follow her heart and choose a mortal. Clérambault’s La Mort d’Hercule (the Death of Hercules) tells of the accidental poisoning of the great hero by his forsaken wife Deineira. And the moral of the story? “Love’s flowers can often hide thorns.”

Blessed with a pleasing voice throughout its impressive range, Stuart O’Hara sang us his stories with engaging candour and an obvious relish at the twists and turns of the plot, with the ‘orchestra’ at all times alert to the colour and affect of events.

Between cantatas, the players entertained us with a solo each. First up was Alistair Ross with the fifth of Rameau’s Pièces de Clavecin en Concert (accompanied harpsichord pieces) in which he honours Marais and Forqueray, the two foremost bass viol players of the time, and the dancer Cupis, all friends of his. This is some of the most fascinating and cultured music of all time and its subtleties were conveyed with poetry and elan. Theresa Caudle chose one of Jean-Marie Leclair’s 48 violin sonatas, a typical rococo mix of abstract and dance movements with an explorative adagio, a lively allegro, a sinuous saraband and a big smiling final chaconne. Her sweet-toned violin filled the church with joyful, melodious sounds. Mark Caudle made light of the virtuoso demands of Marais’ Labyrinthe, guiding us intrepidly with his ball of twine through tricky corners and dark recesses.

The next Burghclere Baroque evening will be Handel’s Messiah with The Burghclere Baroque Ensemble. Wednesday, December 22, 7pm at the Church of the Ascension (change of previously advertised date).

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