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Concert Report/ Ensemble Pierre Robert: "Peace Sacred - Peace Profane"

img  Tobias

On any festival, there are performances that will appeal to a wider audience and those for an initiated and dedicated minority. On the evidence of the visitor count, “Peace Sacred, Peace Profane” certainly belongs to the latter category: While the back of St. John's still offers plenty of chairs to choose from, the front rows are tightly packed, filled with music fans who may well have been waiting a long time for this.

It doesn't take one long to figure out what has drawn them to tonight's flame like a moth: All the way from France, the Ensemble Pierre Robert under the auspices of Frederic Desenclos has taken with them a bundle of two long, medium-scale works for orchestra and voices, one of which at least is anything but a pervasive live favorite: Sebastien de Brosssard's “Canticum eucharistum pro pace” was first played publically in 1698, making today's event the 110th anniversary of its debut and through all these years, it has remained a sidenote to history rather than a legend.

The reasons for this neglect are not to be found in a creative deficit. De Brossard seems to have arranged his piece allegorically in some respects, aiming for a representation of peace in the way the musicians interact on stage: He searches for harmony in many different instrumental combinations, passing themes from one singer to the next and engaging them in an all but infinite string of duets, trios and choir passages. It is a festive work with a bright and optimistic mood, whose tutti passages come across as jubilant and exultated.

All the same, this search for equality and harmony sometimes makes it hard to follow the composition on a first listen. Especially when all singers and the entire orchestra are involved, it is not exactly easy focussing one's attention, as the different voices all seem to be going somewhere else. Confusion may however actually be a theme here and the crowd were well-prepared, as the lavish enthusiasm at the end reveals. A perfect example of the right performance for the right public.

Lully's “Idylle sur la Paix”, meanwhile, is an entirely different proposition. Written to regain Louis XIV's favour, it openly seeks an immediate contact with the listener, pleasing him, charming him, forcing him into submission with sweet melodies, elated repetitions and subtle variations. The ecstatic joy of the score easily feeds back to the performers of the Ensemble Pierre Robert, who now realise a rich and warmly rounded sound, seductive and dreamy, enveloping their audience completely. The singers are all allowed their solos, before falling back into the fold for another hypnotic round of tuttis and the individual segments of the piece are separated by positively pensive passages of flute and bassoon.

Singers and instrumentalists alike are concentrated on their own performance and rarely seek eye contact with the public. The message is clear: It is the music that counts and if you're looking for a spectacular show, you better go find it somewhere else. On the other hand, the mere size of this group, stretched out over the entire breadth of the podium is impressive and a sight to behold of. The musicians are obviously enjoying themselves and some of them even stay on for the ensuing concert of Paolo Pandolofo, Celine Scheen and Labyrinto. It is a gesture which reveals the deep reverence these musicians have for Baroque music – and which shows that they are just as much part of an initiated minority as their audience.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music

Article in serie

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1 Concert Report/ Ensemble Pierre Robert: "Peace Sacred - Peace Profane"
Live at St. John's Smith ...
2008-05-20
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2 Concert Program/ Labyrinto & Celine Scheen
From the official Program Notes: ...
2008-05-20
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4 Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music 2008: Day 5
London, May 19th: Ensemble Pierre ...
2008-05-20
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5 Concert Report/ Labyrinto & Celine Scheen
Live at St. John's Smith ...
2008-05-20

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