Prom 52: OAE/Freiburg Baroque Orchestra - Royal Albert Hall, 23 August 2007
Perhaps some other people, like me, were mostly interested in hearing Ian Bostridge and Kate Royal, even though their appearance was really more of a swift marketing boost for Bostridge's latest recording than a major part of the programme. There was certainly a noticeable exodus from the arena at the interval, following their all too brief 10 minute share of the two and a half hour marathon.
Singers aside, the selling point of this concert was the bringing together of two of the great period orchestras, the Freiburg Baroque and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, albeit in trimmed-down versions of each.
The opening number, Handel's Concerto a due cori, requires two instrumental ensembles. It was a smart bit of programming that demonstrated the subtle differences of timbre between the two bands, most noticeable in the wind and brass. The OAE's Rachel Podger (photo above) directed this from her violin with a permagrin and a hair-tossing vigour that was reflected in a muscular performance from the ensemble.
They followed up with a suite of nine Purcell numbers selected and arranged by Catherine Mackintosh of the OAE, and again directed by Rachel Podger. Although this kicked off with much the same brio as the Handel, the ensemble noticeably deflated about halfway through. They autopiloted for an interminable ten minutes until a comically raw closing jig jolted things back into life.
As the wholesomely glamorous Kate Royal strode on in a ruched silver satin off the shoulder gown, like Kate Middleton doing Rita Hayworth, the teenage girl behind me sighed --oh my god I want to BE her. She did look fabulous. And she delivered Handel's brief Eternal source of light divine with a silvery radiance and great charm. She does breathe like a horse, but nobody's perfect, eh?
Ian Bostridge followed with an impeccable Love Sounds th'alarm, sparkling and vital, every tricky note perfect. Kate Royal sat glowering into her score as he sang - rehearsing faces for her next number rather than commenting on his performance as it transpired.
Royal and Bostridge then paired for As Steals the Morn and Happy We, the former exquisitely sensitive, the quaint humour of the latter so excruciatingly misjudged I couldn't even look at them as they sang. Despite this little slip, I could have readily listened to them for a lot longer. It was disappointing that their appearance was so brief.
I didn't stay for the rest of the concert - some Telemann, Handel's ubiquitous Royal Fireworks music - though listening to the recorded broadcast, it sounds as if it was no great loss.