|Sir Roger Norrington.|
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is an acclaimed period performance ensemble from the United Kingdom, under the direction of Sir Roger Norrington. Sir Roger is now 77, and has had a long career leading period performance ensembles. Although he has met with wide criticism for his dry-toned, unromantic accounts of Beethoven, Wagner and even Mahler, these four symphonies and two concertos were ideally suited to his plain-spoken approach. They were played by the small orchestra (about two dozen, all told) with melodic drive and energy throughout.
The highlight of the performance was the C Major harpsichord concerto. It is difficult to play with lyricism on the harpsichord, but soloist Steven Devine overcame the limitations of that instrument. His cadenzas were played with beauty and skill, an impressive blend of dexterity and phrasing as he made the harpsichord sing.
|C.P.E. Bach. Image © Naxos.|
When Haydn referred to Bach as the "father of us all", he was referring not to Johann Sebastianm but to C.P.E. Bach. This was proved by the four string symphonies on this program, which were written for a patron (Baron Gottfired von Swieten) who wanted Bach to push the envelope of instrumental writing farther than it had ever been pushed before. Using only strings and harpsichord, the younger Bach creates a riot of emotional color in the course of three movements each. Impressive, since each symphony is an average of just ten minutes in length.