03 March, 2009

Concert Review: Amsterdam Baroque - Ton Koopman

March 3, 3009, CH
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman

Thanks to jules, I attended the first of a pair of concerts by this ensemble.

On record I have heard their Bach, which is very fine. In concert I had heard Koopman work his magic with a student orchestra in NYC, again in Bach. So the concert came as a disappointment.

The orchestra for this occasion is smaller than pictured: strings 5,4, 2,2,1; 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns' and no trombones; trumpets but no oboes for for next day's Bach) The Handel Water Music Suite No. 1 set the tone for the evening. Koopman conducted from the harpsichord in an animated fashion, but the orchestra was just plain dull. The balance was exemplary, the strings beautiful in tone and rich in shadings, yet they lacked vitality and rhythm was rather four-square. The ensuing music, in the form of a suite, from Rameau's Dardanus was a little more animated, but not enough so. The articulation was too studied for music that should concentrate on flair and drama.

Koopman stood up to conduct Haydn's Symphony No. 83, "The Hen", one from the Paris set, and the result was much better. The fine balance and refinement were still apparent, but allied to greater rhythmic elan. Koopman managed to infuse some much-needed drama and, although not the most humorous Haydn, the whole was satisfying. Overall, I feel this period orchestra is not quite in the top echelon. Previously, in the same hall, Phillip Herreweghe and Frans Bruggen had given us much more uplifting performances with their period orchestras.

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