Blog / Listen: Egarr on ABC

Listen: Egarr on ABC

Posted on 25 Jun 2015 by Leo Messias


Listen to the exclusive audio recording of our Egarr & The Golden Age concert – available on ABC Classic Online – which the irreverent director of the Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr, summed up as “30 minutes of good English music before getting to some minor composer called Bach.”

Listen Now (available until 21 July only)


‘The concert was a meeting of strong musical forces: the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s dynamism, for which 18th century classicism has always been mother’s milk, and the extrovert baroque (in every sense) brilliance of keyboard player and conductor Richard Egarr.

Those forces brought shapely charm to Egarr’s selection from Purcell’s incidental music to the preposterous bowdlerization of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Fairy Queen. This is music of simple delight, of course, and does not always need dynamism. At times it is sufficient for it to be sprightly.

The ACO’s reinterpretation of Lawes’ Fantasy in six parts was a glorious discovery. Although translated from the original Renaissance viols to modern instruments and playing styles, the contrapuntal textures were richly rewarding. Satu Vanska played Bach’s Concerto for Violin in A minor, BWV 1041 with lightness that focused on the sweetness of sound, using vibrato and expressiveness in the slow movement with self-denying restraint.

In Haydn’s Keyboard Concert in D major, Egarr’s fortepiano playing was a model of well-defined clarity, fluid melodic style and musical spontaneity, the last mentioned including improvised cadenzas and dreamy transitional passages between movements.’

Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 June
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‘orchestral playing of the highest order, crackling with fierce energy and sheer fun’
William Yeoman, The West Australian, 19 June
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‘In his second collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra as director and soloist, Richard Egarr from Britain’s Academy of Ancient Music presented a potpourri of vanguard baroque and classical compositions.

The ACO has a tendency towards intensely articulated bite and crunch. Egarr tempered this by offering detailed, spirited and unconventional readings of music by William Lawes, Purcell, Bach and Haydn, with strongly accentuated rhythmic shape and timbral diversity.

Responding to his lively direction, the ensemble found unity of expression, exceptional tonal clarity and a judicious blend of vigorous phrasing and considered articulation.

Egarr’s reputation is for fresh interpretations, informed by scholarship and thoughtful musical analysis. In his illuminating account of instrumental selections from Purcell’s genre-evading The Fairy Queen, syncopations were drawn out as languid grooves that would feel at home in contemporary pop.

The sinewy, squeezebox interlacings of the Fantasy from Lawes’s C major Consort Set, written for six viols, worked well in arrangement for the modern violin family. Satu Vänskä was the soloist in an elegant rendition of Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor, delivering the solo line with soft clarity rather than virtuosic flourish.

After the interval, energy levels rose as Egarr gave a riveting, ­highly idiosyncratic account of Haydn’s Keyboard Concerto in D major, explosive fingerwork coupling with stylistically and harmonically adventurous cadenzas to memorable, if somewhat wacky effect. A mobile phone became part of the fun as Egarr lampooned its jarring oscillations, seamlessly incorporating them into his extemporisation.’

Eamonn Kelly, The Australian, 17 June
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‘With captivating depictions of repertoire “standards” like Bach’s Concerto for Violin in A minor and Haydn’s Symphony No 44 nestled among the more obscure (Lawes’ Fantasy No 1), and the more entertaining (Purcell’s The Fairy Queen) – the Australian Chamber Orchestra rose with ease to the high energy set by Egarr at the helm.

Making a solid first impression with selections from Purcell’s The Fairy Queen – the orchestra kept the audience guessing, offering passages of slumber then rising to the heights of jubilation with just a bar’s notice. Delightful oboes and harpsichord duets punctuated lyrical string passages.

Lawes’ Fantasy No 1 from Consort Set in six parts followed, with the orchestra giving the “utterly English” nature of the work an appropriate working through, before the orchestra again came alive, with lead violinist and soloist Satu Vänskä presenting a classy interpretation of Bach’s Concerto for Violin in A minor.’

Joel Carnegie, The Age, 14 June
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‘In the final movement, the sense of how Vänskä will take possession of the concerto could be heard in her bold handling of the devilish, rapid runs of the presto –her bowing arm moving like a bird’s wing to ensure lift as well as speed.’

Jennifer Gall, Canberra Times, 15 June
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13-28 June

Travel back in time with Richard Egarr as he presents music from the Golden Age performed on the ACO’s stunning collection of rare Italian instruments crafted between the late 16th and 18th centuries.

PURCELL The Fairy Queen: Suite (selections)
W LAWES Consort set in 6 parts in C major
JS BACH Violin Concerto in A minor
HAYDN Keyboard Concerto in D major
HAYDN Symphony No.44 in E minor