London Festival of Baroque Music, St John Smith's Square, review: Enlightenment after a drab start

The endangered annual festival is as adventurous as ever

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The Independent Culture

Lindsay Kemp is to be congratulated for preserving his endangered annual festival, now renamed the London Festival of Baroque Music and as adventurous as ever.

Yet it began with an event in which Masaaki Suzuki, soprano Hana Blazikova and the Bach Collegium Japan delivered some Bach concertos and cantatas with scant regard for their beauty. The violin solos in the D minor double concerto were drably uncharacterised, and Blazikova stabbed thinly at her notes rather than inhabiting them with conviction.

But the second concert was sensational, even if the framing narration was hammed-up. Given by Jeffrey Skidmore and his Ex Cathedra consort and players with Carolyn Sampson as their soprano, it opened up the music of Enlightenment Paris by focusing on works written for Marie Fel, the extraordinary soprano who was Rameau’s muse.

It was also a reminder of what a peerless recitalist Carolyn Sampson is. Her singing has wonderfully expressive grace, retaining all its penetrative power even when diminished to a thread; a trumpet to answer the trumpets, a flute among the flutes.