Academy of Ancient Music: Sara Macliver and co bring clarity and comeliness

Reviewed by Peter McCallum

Sara SMH

Academy of Ancient Music & Sara Macliver, City Recital Hall, November 9

The original Academy of Ancient Music flourished in London from about 1726 to 1796, specialising in the music of a previous age before being tempted into the then contemporary delights of Handel and luminaries of the cosmopolitan Baroque.

In 1973 Christopher Hogwood aptly appropriated the name for an original-instrument orchestra dedicated to playing music from the time of its earlier namesake. The rest, as they, is history.

Harpsichordist Richard Egarr, the academy’s current director, brings outstanding and serene musicianship to their music making that shows that the historical lessons of Hogwood’s generation have been absorbed and sublimated and overzealous historicism has been resisted.

This program, featuring the pristine transparency of Sara Macliver’s singing, returned to the academy’s heartland, the clarity and comeliness of the English Baroque.

And what a glorious mastery over these sometimes-troublesome instruments the musicians display!

The Plaint, from an extended suit of music from Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, follows the model of tragic lament for female voice over a repeated bass found most famously in the same composer’s Dido and Aeneas.

Macliver’s interrupted phrases had haunting beauty as she touched the echoing, most resonant notes of her range, the sense of desolation almost over-basted. Baroque oboist Frank de Bruine added stylised lamenting sighs with a light woody sound of delicate glow and the whole blended together in a memorable texture of translucent expressiveness.

Similarly, trumpeter David Blackadder captured both the clarion and the quiet moments in Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim and in a softer encore, his sound and Macliver’s flashed with warmth like sunlight on metal.

A suite from Matthew Locke’s music for The Tempest revealed a composer enraptured by both chromatic adventure and contrapuntal intricacy, while Thomas Arne’s Overture No. 6 in B flat suggested a composer of sprightly mind, alert to emerging Rococo fashions.

Above all, the concert brought the wit and quickness of thought of the English Baroque to life with natural energy and vivid colour.

This article originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on November 10, 2013 – 1:14PM  at;


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