Review: Music for the Royal Fireworks, Aldeburgh Festival, Le Concert Spirituel/ Herve Niquet, Snape Maltings, June 12

Aldeburgh Festival presents Herv� Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel at Ely Cathedral Photo: Beki Smith

Aldeburgh Festival presents Herv� Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel at Ely Cathedral Photo: Beki Smith - Credit: Archant

Le Concert Spirituel was founded in 1987 by the current conductor, Herve Niquet, with the aim of performing music from the court of Versailles on period instruments. Since then their repertory has expanded and they are widely praised for the dynamism and authenticity of their performances of vocal and instrumental music.

This concert featured strings, oboes, bassoons, trumpets, horns and percussion. Gut rather than metallic strings gave a rougher (in the best sense), more bucolic sound that was wholly in keeping with the programme. Horns and trumpets were valveless, also producing less polished notes than we are used to today, but this is what composers wrote for at the time and the results were undeniably exciting.

The evening opened with three short works by Charpentier who is probably best remembered for his Te Deum. All pieces, including the well-known prelude to the Te Deum were performed with great panache.

The Water Music was first performed in 1717 for reasons that were in no small part political. The King (George1) had been advised that a public appearance would be prudent and opted for a royal ‘progress’ on water to Chelsea and back during which the music was played three time over, such was the King’s delight. And so it was in Snape Maltings; to be sure, Snape is a far cry from London and the Alde is no Thames yet there was a palpable sense of occasion and the strings and wind skipped nimbly through the numbers before the horns burst upon the scene with some thrilling virtuosity.

The second half began with a complete contrast – Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in G minor for strings op6 no 8. It is a work of deep and poignant beauty and was played with great cohesion and dignity.

For the Music for the Royal Fireworks the orchestra was augmented by a double bassoon and serpent. Pomp and pageant returned in the overture’s adagio. All sections of the orchestra blazed in the more extrovert passages and Herve Niquet’s engaging mix of conducting and showmanship brought the evening to a rousing conclusion.

Gareth Jones

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