If we believe, as Sir Thomas Beecham did, that the harpsichord sounds like skeletons copulating on a tin roof, then this was a veritable orgy.
Bach’s Multiple Concertos, Queen’s Hall * * * *
Effectively the last in the Dunedin Consort’s Bach Keyboard Concertos series, four of these instruments framed the stage like a vehicle convoy parked around the small band of strings. What did this Baroque powerhouse sound like? We wouldn’t feel the full impact immediately.
The Concerto in C for three harpsichords, opened with a sound akin to a swarm of bees. But as the musical texture found flight, soloists John Butt, Richard Egarr and Diego Ares sourced mischievous gamesmanship to indulge in. The solo honours went to Egarr in the Brandenburg Concerto No 5, a golden concertante partnership with violinist Cecilia Bernardini and flautist Flavia Hirte, eliciting eccentric nuances, tasteful wit and spectacular keyboard virtuosity.
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The second half will be remembered for some crazy harpsichord jamming – all four (now including Thomas Foster) in a live deconstruction of the normally solo Italian Concerto. Skill and stylistic artistry avoided any descent into circus antics. It set the bar for an exuberant finale, the actual 4-harpsichord Concerto in A minor, based on Vivaldi and chirpier for it.