“…bravura performance of his co-conductor, and assistant director, Paul Agnew. In several of the pieces he led at the Barbican, Agnew would turn round on the podium and let rip with the tenor part as if he (like his fellow-soloists) had merely been idling at the edge of the stage until his moments of glory arrived.
“Agnew’s multi-tasking role added to the fun of a festive evening that marked four decades of achievement from the French period specialists – and their American-born begetter (pictured below) – with lashings of what we’ll have to call (cliché alert) joie de vivre. For Les Arts Florissants spread enjoyment as well as enlightenment in abundance as they presented their “Baroque Odyssey”. A tour through the historic heartlands of their repertoire, it began more or less on this side of the Channel – with chunks from Purcell and Handel – before crossing La Manche for extracts from Lully, Charpentier and Rameau in the second half. The packed programme came across as sort of Baroque music-hall, or courtly cabaret, with vocalists and players (not to mention singing conductors) determined to make this big-birthday bash a proper party, not a solemn rite.
“Christie, Agnew and their forces reminded us that sheer exuberance and uninhibited delight in the material has changed the climate quite as much as the scholarly pursuit of “authenticity”
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