The term baroque is derived from the Italian barocco, meaning bizarre, though exuberant would be a much a better way to describe soprano Natalie Montakhab and Il Bacio’s recital in Westminster Music Library last Thursday evening.
As a debut solo artist at the BBC Proms in 2011, the Times critic Hilary Finch noted the “wide awake, beautiful soprano voice of Natalie Montakhab”, and judging by her performance for us in the Music Library I suspect our audience would totally agree. Natalie has also sung as soloist with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
She was accompanied by Ann Allen on baroque oboe and recorder, and Ralph Stelzenmüller on harpsichord, the latter’s extremely delicate and valuable instrument being very carefully transported up to the Music Library especially for our concert.
The recital began with a selection of songs by one of the greatest masters of English baroque music, Henry Purcell. A generation after Purcell came William Croft, who amongst his many compositions wrote suites for harpsichord, a selection of which were played brilliantly for us tonight. Croft was wonderfully innovative in his own right, and achieved the same status in English musical life as Purcell had done. He lived well into the 18th century, and developed a very different style of music which was to influence Handel after he moved to live in England.
And it was to Handel that Il Bacio turned for the second half of the concert, with a selection of arias from his opera Acis and Galatea. The goddess Galatea impatiently awaits the arrival of her mortal lover, Acis. He is unable to find her, but stumbles upon Damon, his shepherd friend, who tells him that the pursuit of love is fruitless, and that instead he should simply enjoy mortal pleasures. Acis ignores him, and he and Galatea are united in an atmosphere of exultant love. A perfect finale to an exclusive evening of baroque delights for a very appreciative audience:
“Absolutely fantastic. It’s great to hear baroque in such an intimate setting.”
“A very enjoyable programme, the harpsichord was exquisite”
“Excellent and very relaxed, incredible music in a lovely space.”