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Choral and Vocal
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Chamber
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Chamber
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Recital
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SYMPHONY REVIEW
Green Music Center / Thursday, March 3, 2022
Le Concert des Nations. Jordi Savall, director

Le Concert des Nations March 3 in Weill Hall

VENERABLE GALLIC MUSIC EXQUISITELY PLAYED IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 3, 2022

An entire concert of mostly 16th and 17th century music in a large hall might be considered an acquired taste, but this reviewer had that taste, as presumably an audience of 400 did in Weill Hall March 3 for Jordi Savall’s Le Concert des Nations ensemble.

Moving smoothly without intermission through seven extended sets, the 95-minute concert concentrated on French repertoire with two seven-string bass viols, baroque flute, violin, guitar, theorbo and a harpsichord painted robins egg blue with gold trim. Courtly dances prevailed with extended solo passages.

Mr. Savall has acquired a wide reputation for authority with Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music, and his elegant ensemble, founded in 1989, performed with deft precision and attention to the music’s scholarly detail. Violinist Manfredo Kraemer (minimal vibrato) presented many of the themes in the opening suite from Lully’s Les Bourgeois Gentilhomme, juxtaposed with bass viol playing from Mr. Savall and Philippe Pierlot.

All through the succeeding two sets (Saint Colombe, le pere: Concert XLI a violes égales: La Retour; Marais: Pieces de Viole du 3e livre et du 4e livre) the music was grounded by the sonorous bottom register theorbo notes played by Lucas Harris, who doubled with a baroque guitar. Much of the music was in the middle rage of the string instruments Concerts, with the harpsichord faintly in the background.

A highlight was Couperin’s Les Concerts Royaux and Nouveaux Concerts (1724) – Muzettes 1 & 2, Prélude, plainte pour les Violes. Mr. Savall guided the ensemble with quiet cues and brief head nods, with Flutist Charles Zebley playing a simple shepherd’s tune quietly going up and down the staff. It was the most romantic music of the evening, with the open string theorbo providing pedal point.

Marais’ beautiful Pieces de Viole du 2e livre (Couplets de Folies), fast but never loud, featured Mr. Savall’s duo with the guitar line’s variations that were reminiscent of Couperin’s Barricades Mysterieuses. Both basses (gambas), tenor and I think bass viol, were here powerfully played with emphasis on the top d, a and e strings. Mr. Savall announced from the stage the six parts of Sainte-Colombe’s Concert XLIV a deux violes: Tombeau. There was a dramatic but subtle dynamic change in the Les Pleurs section. This work was played with great delicacy.

Marais’ Sonnerie de Sainte-Genevievre du Mont-de-Paris closed the program with all hands on deck, the violin line proclaiming a village dance that the flute picked up, and then all instruments joining into what was a furious fandango.

A standing ovation generated encores, the first announced by Mr. Savall but the combination of a noisy hall and perfect French made identification difficult. It was a whirlwind piece with Mr. Pierlot playing continuo, and the flute and piccolo’s short motives dancing along. The piece’s reception demanded another encore, one of Rameau’s Pieces de Clavecin, that unfolded as a bold fast festive dance with virtuoso violin playing and harpsichord tremolos.

Steve Osborn and Joan Lounsbery contributed to this review.