Concert Review: A JOURNEY THROUGH BAROQUE EUROPE (Théotime Langlois de Swarte and Le Consort)

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by Michael M. Landman-Karny on November 10, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Music,Tours


Last night, November 9, Segerstrom’s Samueli Hall was a perfect location for being treated to an intimate baroque performance curated by Le Consort, the Paris-based preeminent ensemble making their U.S. debut with A Journey Through Baroque Europe. Co-directed by the accomplished violinist Théotime Langlois de Swarte, the virtuosic harpsichordist Justin Taylor and Sophie de Bardonnèche on the baroque violin, and joined by Hanna Salzenstein on cello, these four musicians, all under the age of 30, approach the chamber baroque repertoire with a fervent dedication, genuine sincerity, and a touch of modernity. Their collective mission is to unite compelling musical personalities in the pursuit of chamber music from the 17th and 18th centuries.

While the name Antonio Vivaldi is undoubtedly familiar, the trio sonata “La Follia” Op. 1 No. 12 — a less-acknowledged gem originating from the early phase of Vivaldi’s career — was sensational. A revelation also unfolded in the form of the recently unearthed Violin Sonata Op. 2, No. 2 by Giovanni Battista Reali, a contemporary of Vivaldi whose absence from an English-language Wikipedia entry belies the fiery and dramatic nature of his composition. Equally noteworthy was The Mad Lover by John Eccles, composed as an accompaniment to John Fletcher’s Jacobean play of 1647, employing music as an early vehicle for portraying mental illness. The evening’s repertoire was further enriched by works from baroque luminaries such as Bach, Dandier, and Purcell, providing a sumptuous feast for both enthusiasts of Baroque music and, I would say, those unfamiliar with the genre.

The performers, without exception, delivered a world-class rendition of 13 pieces, with de Swarte and Taylor emerging as exceptional and singular talents. M. de Swarte, recognized as one of the foremost baroque violinists globally, showcased his remarkable skill on a temperamental unmodified 1665 Jacob Stainer violin. Rather than commanding the instrument, De Swarte’s interaction resembled a profound communion, a dialogue with a cherished confidant. Overcoming the inherent challenges, he navigated his Baroque violin with a natural and unforced finesse.

M. Taylor, presiding over the harpsichord, displayed artistry characterized by fluid, flawless technique, daring ideas, and sensitivity pushed to the limits of the instrument. While a harpsichord’s expressive palette is predominantly confined to tempo and ornamentation, Taylor’s adept hands transformed it into an instrument capable of evoking piano-like sonorities rarely encountered.

Mlle. de Bardonnèche, on the baroque violin, proved to be a fitting collaborator to de Swarte’s artistry, while Mlle. Salzenstein, commanding the cello, infused the instrument with a dramatic and passionate flair usually reserved for 20th-century compositions such as those by Elgar or Shostakovich.

In anticipation of future performances, I eagerly await the continued brilliance of this talented baroque ensemble.

photos from Le Consort

Le Consort
Théotime Langlois de Swarte & Sophie de Bardonnèche, violin;
Hanna Salzenstein, 
violoncello; Justin Taylor, harpsichord
reviewed at SCFTA in Costa Mesa, CA on November 9, 2023
touring continues; for dates and cities, visit Le Consort Tour

Vivaldi: Trio Sonata in G minor, Op. 1, No. 1
Reali: Violin Sonata Op. 2, No. 2 (Grave)
Corelli: Trio Sonata in C Major, Op. 4, No. 1
Rameau: Extracts from “Les Indes Galantes”
Dandrieu: Trio Sonata in G minor, Op. 1
Corelli: Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 5, No. 12 “La Follia”
Veracini: Violin Sonata in A Major, Op. 1, No. 7 (final)
Eccles: “The Mad Lover”
Purcell: Sonata of Four Parts in G minor, No. 6, Z. 807
Rameau: Gavotte et ses doubles
Bach: Trio Sonata in G Major, BWV 1039
Bach: Andante, BWV 974
Vivaldi: Trio Sonata in D minor, Op. 1, No. 12 (“La Follia”)

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