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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

History comes alive in exuberant and cheeky concert


Salut! Baroque performs The Historian. Photo: Dalice Trost

Music / The Historian, Salut! Baroque with Duncan Driver. At James Fairfax Theatre, NGA, June 21. Reviewed by ALANNA MACLEAN.

The exuberant musical life of Charles Burney (1725-1814), musician, composer and (perhaps more importantly) documenter of the music and musicians of his time, was the focus of Salut! Baroque’s equally exuberant and cheeky concert The Historian. 

The music that went with Burney’s cheerfully tart observations on composers and performers was rightly the main focus, but Duncan Driver’s performance in appropriate costume caught the energetic spirit of the man and ought to send the audience off for some further reading of his copious observations. 

The program included, of course, composers that Burney often had quite decided opinions about and there were also anecdotes from him that were funny but not always kind. 

Meanwhile, we were treated to the likes of Handel and Vivaldi and Telemann and Purcell. Sometimes the viola left, sometimes the recorders came in, mostly the violins stayed, except when one got the sulks. It certainly wasn’t a straight musical concert. 

Duncan Driver’s performance, in appropriate costume, caught the energetic spirit of Charles Burney. Photo: Dalice Trost

It was lovely to see the interplay between the musicians and to spot the differences between modern and older stringed instruments (gut strings, not steel, for example) and to see various sizes of recorders take centre stage while the cello and bass steadily underpinned all.

But the stand out musical performance would have to be Monika Kornel on the harpsichord playing the wonderfully named Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer’s La Marche des Scythes, a piece that rattles along at a great pace and requires a precision of playing to sort it all out. Kornel had it totally under control and performed it with an edge of humour that the audience thoroughly appreciated. 

The quality of the playing and the good humoured atmosphere of the evening augmented by Driver’s lively narrative made for a most enjoyable event.

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