English Baroque Soloists: Mozart and Haydn review – historical hipsters cut loose in captivating style | Classical music

John Eliot Gardiner founded the English Baroque Soloists, a groundbreaking group of period instruments 46 years ago, and has conducted them ever since. That’s well over half of his own lifetime. An extraordinary achievement. The historically informed performance, as we know it today, inevitably changed with the times, first with fewer socks and sandals, more cropped pants and an interesting haircut. HIP has become hipster. It is still popular today. When you hear top-notch orchestras playing classical and baroque repertoires these days, they likely incorporate the sound and stylistic touches introduced by EBS.

There is still nothing quite like a live encounter with the real thing. Incredibly earthy bass, the most metallic horns, the plucking of strings with teeth: the opening minutes of Haydn’s 84th Symphony contain these there was everything. There were no unmarked notes, no phrases started without emphasis. The sound quality was exquisite. This probably stems from Gardiner’s extraordinary level of control and commitment to ensembles. But overall, the expressive mannerisms that threatened to overwhelm the simplicity of the symphony’s most beautiful moments felt stifling.

Mozart’s brilliant Symphony No. 36 (“Linz”) was another matter. Yes, there were hand-sharp timpani strokes, deliciously tangy woodwinds and brass, and even more furious strings given to a euphoric scrub in the finale. But standing now, the orchestra and score finally had space to breathe and space for more subtle contrasts.

This change is due to the interim work of the programme, the Mozart Concerto Symphony by violinist Isabel Faust and viola player Antoine Tamestit. From the seductive octaves of the soloists emerging from the textures of Tutti, through the humiliating tones exhaled by Faust and harmonized by Tamestit in the powerful second movement, to the miraculously reinvigorated sound at the end. , which was enchanting. Both soloists enjoyed long lines, and their expressiveness was infectious. The orchestra was audibly relaxed. It’s hard to imagine this piece played better.

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