Brandenburg Ensemble * * * *
at Symphony Hall
Review by Christopher Morley
There are so many synthetic jollifications going on at this time of the year, but an encouragingly full and enthusiastic Symphony Hall was the venue for a genuine celebration, that of the much-loved harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock's 60th birthday.
And he is marking the landmark in style, touring around the country a complete cycle of all six Bach Brandenburg Concertos performed by an expert young group of performers under the title of the European Brandenburg Ensemble, as he told us in one of his genial, modest asides, ten nations, if you include Wales, are contributing players.
What unites this heady mix stirred by Pinnock's calm, wise direction from the keyboard is an unconcealed enthusiasm for this colourful, diverse music, delivered with a stylishness which conceals the most up-to-date, practical scholarship.
We have become healthily accustomed to performance on "period" instruments, and an encouraging development seems to be a diminishing of the need for players to be constantly retuning. This irritating aspect was kept at a minimum here.
And it must surely be inspirational for players of the humble recorder to witness how sparkling and expressive it can be in the hands of such musicians as Robert Ehrlich and Antje Hensel, joined by the hardworking and accomplished violinist Kati Debretzeni in the delicate Fourth Concerto.
Among other soloists outstanding in their contributions were the dulcet flautist Katy Bircher in no.5 and the brilliant trumpeter Gabriele Cassone.
His role in the extrovert Second Concerto was exhilarating, though his part did tend to dominate even when of subsidiary importance.
Balance was in fact the only negative feature in this splendid evening. Someone should have persuaded Pinnock to lower the acoustic canopy a little.