Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Koopman review – Bach sounds fresh and jubilant | Classical music

Ton Koopman’s enthusiasm for the bread and butter of his long career – for the music of JS Bach, and for playing it with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, which he founded in 1979 – hasn’t faded. This all-Bach programme read like a greatest hits tracklist, yet the music sounded unflaggingly fresh.

It began with the Double Concerto for oboe and violin in C minor, with Catherine Manson stretching out some supple violin lines and the oboist Marcel Ponseele sounding sweet in the faster music, a bit blunter in the slow movement. Koopman directed from his seat at the harpsichord. The ensemble sound was rich and resonant in this living-room acoustic, weightier than some, an impression reinforced by the way Koopman at times shaped the phrases into big, full-bodied crescendos that swelled and then subsided.

Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra observe the minute’s silence at 8pm for the passing of Queen Elizabeth.
Photograph: Richard Cannon/Wigmore Hall

The Air on the G String – again, thickly woven but with detail in the articulation that let the daylight in – introduced the 8pm national minute of silence. Then the mood relaxed again with the Brandenburg Concerto No 3 – relaxed so much that by the final movement Koopman seemed to be having a great time, enjoying the big rattling crescendos Bach creates and, in the final minute, throwing in a glissando of which Jerry Lee Lewis would have been proud. The ABO had fielded only two cellists, which left the third cello part – which balances three violins and three violas – to be absorbed by the other two, an odd corner to cut. It worked well enough but slightly skewed the balance – and would probably have totally triggered Bach, who loved symmetry, a good numerical puzzle and the number three.

The jubilant mood continued through the Orchestral Suite No 1 in C, the music dance-like but brisk: good luck to anyone in an 18th-century corset and periwig trying to dance elegantly to the Bourrée as played here. A slightly gentler energy infused the Brandenburg Concerto No 4, spotlighting some purposeful virtuosity from the two recorder players and some impossibly fast violin breaks from Manson. The evening ended with an encore of that joyful, tearaway Bourrée, and Koopman looked delighted with it all.


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