EIF Music review: Richard Egarr, St Cecilia’s Hall

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Richard Egarr | St Cecilia’s Hall | Star rating: ****

Demonstrating at least as much humour as some of the stand-up comedians in the Fringe’s Cowgate venues, keyboard specialist Richard Egarr’s performance of harpsichord music at St Cecilia’s Hall on Thursday was the sort of recital which could become addictive given the chance.

Apart from the (admittedly niche) laughs – for example, “equal temperament is a communist system” – the up-close and intimate experience of historic instruments, English music of a golden age and a venue that’s Scotland’s oldest purpose-built concert hall made for a mix of ingredients that just worked.

Starting with a 1620s harpsichord from Florence, the sound of Byrd’s Prelude and Fantasia in A minor was delicate and gentle, but also brightly lucid in how its detail could be heard. Moving to another Italian instrument, from 1574, The Bells was evidence of just how much Byrd was an innovator of his time. Evoking carillons of church bells, it illustrated a different sort of florid to John Blow’s highly chromatic Chaconne which followed. Finishing with Blow’s pupil, Purcell, Egarr was clearly in personal seventh heaven with yet another perfectly matched harpsichord, the final Ground in D minor being a particularly insistent force of miniaturism.