Classical: Hurray for harpsichords

MAGGIE COLE AND FRIENDS WIGMORE HALL LONDON

NEVER TOO proud to acknowledge a debt to earlier masters, Bach himself was the icon for 20th century composers hooked on the idea of tradition. For them, in turn, the harpsichord's sound became a symbol of their period stance, a point nicely made at the Wigmore Hall on Tuesday, when Maggie Cole and friends framed an evening of modern works for the instrument with Bach's triple harpsichord concertos in D minor and C major.

Also evoked was an evening, exactly a century ago to the day, when redoubtable harpsichordist Violet Gordon Woodhouse plus the Dolmetsch family, garbed in Elizabethan dress, gave a pioneering account of the C major Concerto by candlelight in nearby Upper Brook Street. So enclosed in the evening was a further fold of historical reference, with the programme stressing how modes of presentation, performance practice and authenticity remain constructive issues for today's early-music movement.

With Malcolm Proud and Alastair Ross, Cole gave strong, clean accounts of the Bach, the ensemble only slightly faltering before the close of the D minor Concerto's slow movement. The C major Concerto, full of swagger and festive spirit, aptly closed the evening. The composer who bridged the centuries was not Bach, however, but Scarlatti, for all that Schoenberg found whispers of atonality in the German composer's music. It was very strange indeed, the two-movement Scarlatti Sonata in D, played by Alastair Ross, sounding dysfunctionally Spanish. Awkward silences framed splashes of wild flamenco colour; disjointed leaps and scrunchy chords were thrown together in ways that could have rivalled Poulenc. Hungarian Rock, by Gyorgy Ligeti, did something odd yet entirely right to conclude, dismissing itself with a phrase of ersatz folksong after pages of rhythmic hyper- activity. By contrast, Gavin Bryars' After Handel's `Vesper', though entirely predictable in rhythm, tickled the ear with chords that swerved to unexpected places, touching en route progressions lingering from half-remembered music, though whether by Bryars or other composers, baroque or pop, proved hard to ascertain.

Cole played the Bryars on a delightful instrument that was emphatically not of the heavyweight, faux-Bach kind that proved popular earlier in the century. At one point a limpid right-hand tune was registered to seem like a twanging mandolin. For Manuel de Falla's pocket-sized Harpsichord Concerto she preferred a similar tone, definitely not of the kind that Wanda Landowska would have chosen at the work's premiere in 1926. Though in a sense inauthentic, the resulting lighter, magical sound of soloist and small ensemble led by Alison Bury was entirely justified aesthetically. Besides, de Falla's score is a perfect miniature piece that may well prove more hardy than many a grander 20th-century work in years to come.

Yet perhaps the most lasting impression was of Handel's Suite No 8 in F minor, played by Malcolm Proud. After a dreamy prelude and robust fugato, the Allemande offered a string of descending phrases as fresh and as beautifully controlled as a peal of bells.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border