The last time I saw Richard Egarr directing the AAM I was exasperated by the band’s interminable tuning up and then their subsequent inability to stay in tune for very long.
So I walked out halfway through a performance of the Brandenburg Concertos. As a paying customer I was entitled to express my disgruntlement. As a critic one has a duty to stay to the (possibly bitter) end.
Not so bitter this time, since the final item was an enjoyable performance of Bach’s third Orchestral Suite, or Overture No.3, as the programme called it for some arcane reason. With just five string players, bassoon, three oboes, three trumpets, timpani and Egarr on harpsichord, sonority and power were limited but Bach’s constant ingenious interplay between the sections was admirably clear.
The famous Air lacked the sumptuous legato modern instruments could give, but elsewhere the rustic oboes were charming and the piercing trumpets added pomp and swagger. The fourth suite was also winningly delivered with Sally Jackson’s harrumphing bassoon, given a demanding workout by Bach, a pleasure to hear.
Bach’s harpsichord concertos in D minor and A major, with Egarr as soloist, were less impressive. The instrument was almost inaudible, except in unaccompanied passages and even here the sound was reduced to a generalized tinkling from where I sat in the circle.
The lively outer movements went best: the D minor’s adagio was dull and when the strings’ intonation wavered briefly the discord sounded as if we’d jumped from Bach to Bartok.