The first ever Paris Festival Baroque has just come to a close after two weeks of early music performance. The festival, which is directed by Julien Le Mauff, supported by the association ARDeCAM (Actions & Réalisations pour la Démocratisation Culturelle, Artistique et Musicale), ran from 23 November until 9 December and saw a number of local and international artists perform in some of Paris’ finest baroque buildings. The festival’s aim is to promote thoughtful performance of Baroque music in the many distinctive and beautiful venues in the city, some of which this genre of music isn’t often performed.

The festival hosted performances from a wide range of artists, including Skip Sempé, Cantus Cölln, Academy of Ancient Music, Les Ombres, Hopkinson Smith and La Fenice. EMT was able to attend two of the festival’s concerts: Jan Van Elsacker with La Fenice performing a seasonal selection entitled In Dulce Jubilo; and La Canzona with an all-Marin Marais programme.

La Fenice, directed by recorder player and cornettist Jean Tubéry, presented a programme split into three sections with music from both well- and lesser-known German composers, including Johann Sommer, Sweenlick, Schütz  and Matthias Weckmann on 2 December.

The repertoire, which the group has previously released on the Alpha label, worked well in the grandiloquent surroundings of the seventeenth century Église Saint-Louis-en-L’Île (pictured above). Tenor Jan van Elsacker gave an emotive and exhilarating performance, supported sensitively by the band. Occasional balance issues resulted in the loss of some text, but the blend of vocal and instrumental timbres created a mesmerising sound in the reverberating acoustics of the huge church. Particularly commendable was theorbo player Thomas Dunford’s performance. The evening was well supported and, despite the chill in the air, the performers received a warm reception from the audience.

The ensemble La Canzona, made up of violinist Simon Heyerick, viola da gamba player Christine Plubeau and harpsichordist Elisabeth Joye, performed a programme of purely Marais music at a much more intimate venue, the Chapelle du Lycée Henri IV. The school and associated buildings is located on the site of the former Abbey of St Genevieve – the bells of which were the reason behind Marais’ famous piece ‘Sonnerie de Sainte Geneviève-du-Mont’, and the piece which opened the concert. The venue was especially well-selected as Marais used to live just a few streets away from the aforementioned bells.

The ensemble performed well together, bring Marais’ work to life in way that showed their passion for the composer, but the overriding memory I have from this concert was the outstanding performance by viola da gamba player Christine Plubeau. Her performance style is captivating and hugely expressive; a joy to see and hear.

The festival welcomes visitors from all over the world, so it’s well worth pencilling in a wintry visit to Paris next year. Although English translations aren’t provided in the printed programmes at concerts, programme descriptions are in English on the website, so best to take a look beforehand if your French is a little rusty!

The next festival will run from 22 November to 9 December 2013.

To find out more about the festival, go to www.parisbaroque.fr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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