Joy & Sorrow Unmasked: Arias and Orchestral works by Bach and Handel
DVD recordings of concerts do not always promise the most exciting of visual spectacles, especially when filmed in an auditorium as plain as the Trifolion Centre Culturel in Echternach, Luxembourg, but this concert by the European Union Baroque Orchestra under Lars Ulrik Mortensen is worth viewing if you value not just Baroque music but its future in performance as well. EUBO is an orchestra of young professionals and students brought together to train, tour and play together for six months, and very good they are. The personnel is completely different each year – onstage here are the 2011 crop – but the inspirational effect of seeing and hearing them is a constant.
They are joined here by Swedish soprano Maria Keohane in a programme that mixes Italianate sorrowing by Handel and Ferrandini with more joyously inclined Bach. It shares three numbers with the recent ‘Pure Handel’ CD, and my admiring comments on that (8/13) can be applied here too. Keohane shows sparkling virtuosity in Jauchzet Gott, but also affecting vulnerability in Ferrandini’s poignant Il pianto di Maria. She does go a little sharp sometimes, but it hardly matters when she can command such attention. Mortensen directs his eager players with sure hand and keen ear for detail.
It is the enthusiasm of the young musicians that is this film’s lasting impression, thanks in no small part to the alert intimacy of the direction. Cut together with a sympathetic ear for the music’s dialogues and pacing, the individual and group close-ups highlight the smiles, knitted brows, darted glances, dropped shoulders and ecstatic eye-closings that show the fleeting relationships and intense personal moments of playing in a group like this. Who would not enjoy playing the Third Brandenburg Concerto in such conditions? And who can blame that violinist who, after Keohane and concertmaster Huw Daniels have duetted exquisitely in the encore from Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, wipes away a tear?