Early Music Festival Utrecht 2015 part 11: les Vestales

Fringe concert: Les Vestales et leurs Concerts Spirituels

This was the day filled with concerts without introductions or explanations, so it seemed. Or rather, with two concerts without ado – one with introduction but which microphones refused to pick up. Yet, of all the fringe and fabulous fringe concerts, Rumorum had been fantastic and Gradus ad Parnassum mind-blowing. It would be difficult for any ensemble to better Gradus.

The last fringe concert of this day – as I couldn’t split up to attend all – was to be the one taking place in the old Hortus of Utrecht’s University Museum. This hortus is truly an enchanting and enchanted garden. It has hot houses as well as an old Orangerie, where plants were kept safe from the winter cold. Fringe concerts take place inside this former Orangerie.

The garden and the hot houses are a favourite of mine. Before and after concerts, there is nothing more pleasant than to have a look at the waterlilies, lotusses, and other plants kept in the hot houses. Or there are the walks and seats in the ordinary garden and next to one of the ponds.

An eager public was already waiting to be allowed into the Orangerie when I arrived. This was not just because of the concert, but it had started to rain. Fortunately, it stopped after a few minutes. The setting of “stage” and seats for the public had changed, compared to previous years. But regardless, the distance between musicians and public is about a meter.

So les Vestales were nearly hemmed in. Their opening piece was the Concert Royal nr 8 by Francois Couperin. This served as an introduction to the rest of the concert. For mlles Martorell, Gasselin and Jourquin took it in turns to tell their audience about the practise at the French court of Louis XIV. Small concerts for a highly discerning, appreciative, and erudite small set of people would be regularly organised at Versailles. Of course, the King would be there.

So the three ladies had taken to Couperin’s idea of a “concert spirituel”. Moreover, they had decided to “create” their own set of suites. For these, they had selected pieces composed by various 17th and 18th century French composers.

So the “suite” created by les Vestales started with a prelude by d’Anglebert, a harpsichord

solo for ms Jourquin. It was followed by Marais’ Allemande, a sarabande and minuet by Hotteterre, a gigue composed by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, a Rondeau by Michel Pignolet de Montéclair and a chaconne by Forqueray (not sure which of this family of composers and musicians). The last few pieces included Tambourin and concert nr 1 by Rameau.

After the previous mind-blowing concert, it was difficult to impress. But Les Vestales easily and convincingly charmed their way into the hearts of their audience. An encore sent everybody happily on their way whistling one of the many dance-tunes. It was a delight to listen to this trio again, after having attended a concert during a preceding festival.

Les Vestales, Orangerie, Utrecht University Museum,
Raquel Martorell traverso
Salomé Gasselin viola da gamba
Jeanne Jourquin harpsichord


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