Early Music Festival Utrecht 2015 part 4: fabulous fringe

Fabulous Fringe: Concerts et Symphonies a deux clavencins

The lunch fringe concerts take place in the large hall of the Tivoli-Vredenburg building, where most of the evening concerts also take place. Usually, fabulous fringe musicians perform during these lunch concerts. They are artists who are either exceptionally promising, or have visited the Early Music Festival several times as “ordinary” talented fringe artists.

At many fringe concerts, the audience can vote for specific ensembles. Provided an ensemble receives enough votes on several points (stage presence and overall performance, for instance) they may be promoted to fabulous fringe artists. The two artists who treated their public to harpsichord pieces were definitely fabulous.

Tuning one harpsichord is a challenge, but the Festival’s tuner had to tune two. What did not help him, was the “gong” which sounds twice in Tivoli-Vredenburg, before a concert starts or a break ends. This “gong” is Big Ben and it sounds as if it is your neighbour, standing right behind you. But at last, despite disruptions, the harpsichords were tuned.

If you are unfamiliar with the instrument, it is like a concert piano. Imagine the immense stage and two concert pianos on it, but facing each other. The harpsichords used, were also special in that the one I had a good view of, had two keyboards. Undoubtedly the one played by mr Clément Geoffroy also had two keyboards.

Then imagine that both artists can’t see each other’s hands. The only interaction is possible through body language and looks. Yet these two artists gave a perfect “quatre mains” on-two-instruments concert. It was dazzling, it was impressive, it was truly ab-so-lu-te-ly fabulous! Though people who do not play say a piano, will probably have no idea how difficult such a performance must be and appreciate it less than those in the public who do play a piano or in the ordinary “quatrye mains” fashion.

The selected 18th century music was not the easiest either. The duo opened with Concert nr 3 by Jean-Philippe Rameau from his “Piéces de clavecin en concert”: La Lapoplinière, la Timide and Tambourins. Then followed selected pieces from the French operas “Castor et Pollux” and “Dardanus”. The two absolutely fabulous harpsichord players finished with Rameau’s concert nr 5 consisting of La Forqueray, La Cupis, and La Marais (also from Pièces de clavecin en concert”.)

Near me, two other members of the audience had been discussing the concerts – fringe and non-fringe – of the complete festival so far. They remarked that they had certainly enjoyed the concerts so far. However, there had not been one with a “wow!” factor yet. That was righted; untill they heard this abfab fringe performance.

Last year, at times, there were problems hearing one of the abfab artists play the harpsichord in this hall. wasnot the artist and the instrument she played. This year, I had already noticed a few evening concerts that microphones seemed simply not to pick up the voice whenever a conductor or artist tried to explain something. Unfortunately, this was also the case when Clément Geoffroy introduced the concert and tried to clarify things about the music by Rameau and Couperin. This is highly irritating, but fortunately – so far – the speaker and microphone system has not interfered with concerts.

Clément Geoffroy et Gwennaëlle Alibert, clavicords, 31st August 2015, Tivoli-Vredenburg large hall

Pieces for two harpsicords by Rameau

Youtube Clément Geoffroy playing Bach
Youtube Official festival site with music and videos

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