Is there a venue more perfect for this 5-concert series of Bach’s Keyboard Concertos than the intimate 18th century St Cecila’s Hall?
Bach: Keyboard Concertos 1. St Cecila's Hall, Edinburgh * * * *
Its oval shape transports sound evenly to every corner of the auditorium, so that even the most delicate ensemble, in this case two harpsichords and one-to-a-part string ripieno, can be heard to the finest detail. Add the quality of harpsichords available through the wonderful in-house early instruments collection, and the package is all but complete.
Required to top it off are musicians and performances of equal calibre, which is what began to emerge as duelling harpsichordists Mahan Esfahani and Aapo Häkkinen, along with with members of the Dunedin Consort, opened the series with Bach’s solo Concerto in D and Double Concerto in C minor.
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Häkkinen took the honours in the first of these, the composer’s transcription of his own E major Violin Concerto. It was an earnest and businesslike performance by the Finn, head down, occasionally making it seem like hard work.
The same went for his transitional solo spot. The double concerto was the transformative moment, Esfahani’s easeful musicality inspiring warmth and excitement, and magical interchanges in the Largo. Bodes well.