Concert Review: Tout Français/Thoroughbass


Tout Français


St Luke’s Anglican Church, Mosman

November 16, 2014

 Courtly dance music by lesser-known French composers was the focus for this concert given by Diana Weston – founder of early music ensemble Thoroughbass, with viola da gamba player, Shaun Ng and soprano Anna Fraser. Most of the works performed were composed during the reign of Louis XIV, who had a great influence on musical style. The most popular compositional form at this time was the dance and the suite – a collection of dances. 

Diana and Shaun opened the concert with Suite No 1 in G from 34 Movements in 5 Suites (op 31) by Joseph Bodin Bortmortier. Boismortier would have composed this suite for a virtuoso violist. The seven-stringed bass viol was popular in 17th century France as a solo instrument. The subdued, mellow sound of the instrument with its blended harmonies and capacity of range lends itself well to virtuosic ensemble writing.

Anna Fraser joined Shaun and Diana to sing Danaé from Cantatilles à voix seule Vol 2 by Louise-Maurice de la Pierre. An experienced performer of early repertoire, Anna sang with a pure tone that balanced with the accompaniment and her embellishments were finely executed. 

Diana played a harpsichord solo by Jean-Baptiste Forqueray – Jupiter – that was originally composed for viol, but later arranged for harpsichord to promote its saleability. Forqueray, also a viol player, came from a family of musicians. This solo must have sounded ahead of its time, with its virtuosic runs and busy rhythmic melodies.

Similar virtuosity was displayed in Suite No. 1 from Premier Livre de Pieces de Viole avec la Basse-Continuë by Louis de Caix d’Hervelois. Being a virtuoso viol performer, d’Hervelois’ suite exploits the characteristics of the instrument and the performer’s skill.

Two short songs by Michel Lambert concluded the concert. Despite the melancholic poems on which the songs were set, Anna sang with exquisite vibrancy – her voice filled St Luke’s Anglican Church with warmth and ringing tone. 

In addition to the concert was the launch of a musical storybook Magpie Baby. Diana instigated this collaboration on a story about a toddler’s development with music by Nadje Noordhuis, lyrics by Angus Ryan, read by Danielle Grant and illustrations by Kym Burrows. This CD along with other recordings by Thoroughbass by can be purchased through their website.

Alison Evans for SoundsLikeSydney©

Alison Evans is a freelance bassoon player, teacher and chamber music performer with the Sirius Chamber Ensemble. She holds post-graduate degrees in music performance and is currently completing her doctorate at the University of Sydney. 

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