Edinburgh International Festival: “An affectionate look at nationalities through horses” has got to be one of the more unusual introductions to a Festival repertoire.
But as a way of grabbing the audience and giving immediate engagement with Telemann’s Ouverture-Suite Les Nations to open the second of the Iestyn Davies/Academy of Ancient Music’s morning concerts at the Queen’s Hall, director Richard Egarr’s chat embodies natural charm.
It gives, however, not just a sense of connection through the spoken word, but via every embedded aspect of the group’s performing practice, even including his witty one-liner from the harpsichord giving a nod to Mussorgsky as the Russians joined Telemann’s international tour. Horses were indeed heard in sprightly canters as well as vibrant charge, the small string group with harpsichord blending skilfully with colour and energy. Countertenor Iestyn Davies has taken his listeners on a differently rewarding journey this week with his performances of Bach’s church cantatas.
Yesterday, the unblemished clarity of his voice reached into the depths of Christian belief as expressed in Vergnügte Ruh’, beliebte Seelenlust and Geist und Seele wird verwirret, both sung with a humble sincerity entirely fitting to the music and Davies’s smooth tone.