January 8th, 2015
London Octave, St Martin in the Fields, London
Meditative if somewhat conservative, this concert presented a selection of trio sonatas and solos by Bach and Handel. Flautist William Bennett and violinist Andrew Watkinson are stunning musicians, infusing every note with a glittering vitality that made each work sing. The Chaconne from J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2 for solo violin was a particular highlight, and a brief introduction by Watkinson was perfect for those who didn’t know the work so well. Bennett’s performance of Bach’s E minor flute sonata was delicately coloured and a pleasure to listen to, though I did wonder occasionally whether he was finding the performance tiring.
Joined by Christopher Bevan at the harpsichord and last-minute ring in cellist Tim Lowe, the ensemble’s trio sonatas were fun and easy-going. As the concert progressed, the contrast between Bach and Handel’s writing was very noticeable. Though astutely composed and beautifully phrased, the Handel felt light-hearted and fleeting compared with the emotional intensity of Bach’s musical journeys. Moving from Handel Sonata for violin and continuo in E major Op.1 No. 12 into Bach’s Trio Sonata in C minor from ‘Musical Offering’ made for a luscious though weighty ending to the program, and I left feeling incredibly refreshed and musically content.
Others might have done something a little more daring with either programming or presentation, though I’m not sure that such a concert would necessarily have suited the serene grandeur of St Martin’s. As it was London, and all performers were of such a high calibre, the concert was well (though not stunningly) attended. It’s concerts like this, though, that make me wonder about the future of classical music – is this necessarily the best way to present small chamber works in a way that might draw audiences back? Or will the audiences slowly disappear in other directions?