Le Concert des Nationals
Tuesday night in Kleinhans Music Hall.
Musical performance practices have changed over the centuries and what was once considered old hat has gained a certain currency. Scholarly research into the way musicians played in the medieval, Baroque and Renaissance eras has revolutionized how the music of the past is played.
Interpretations resulting from such scholarship have frequently aimed at presenting music in a manner that the composer of the piece would recognize, and Jordi Savall has been in the forefront of these practices for decades now. Western New Yorkers got a chance to hear the fruits of his labors (and those of his ensemble, Le Concert des Nations) Tuesday and the results were intriguing but not necessarily enthralling.
Prior to the concert, Savall shared his insights into the ways music can be performed. He noted that all of the music that he and his cohorts would be playing "was created in a different, specific, context."
So what Tuesday's audience was exposed to when the eight members of Le Concert des Nations took the stage was, on the whole, intimate music. Yes, there were dance and folk music rhythms in abundance but this was generally music written and performed for the upper classes.
The first half of the concert focused on music from the 17th century. Things began with a set of tunes heard at a concert attended by King Louis XIII of France. This was followed by a delightful sonata from Johann Rosenmuller and a lengthy selection of excerpts from Henry Purcell's music for "The Fairy Queen." While the performances were uniformly competent, the audience was receptive but didn't seem overwhelmed, applauding but not rising up with roars of approval.
After the intermission, Savall's forces lit into the early part of the 18th century with a beguiling rendition of "Musica sinfonica dividia en canciones" by Rodriguez de Hita, a subtle sonata for five musicians by Jean Marie Leclair and, perhaps the highlight of the evening, some of Jean Phillipe Rameau's fascinating incidental music for "Entree des 4 Nations".
A lovely snippet from Marin Marais' oeuvre served as the encore..