Akadêmia’s rarities, sources of inspiration – Resmusica


Akadêmia’s rarities, sources of inspiration

29 October 2016 by Charlotte Saulneron-Saadou

Several Baroque ensembles turn 30 this year, and these anniversaries reveal the enthusiasm of the 1970s and 80s to reconquer a music that went on to captivate a wide and varied audience. While Les Passions are celebrating this event with southern Baroque music, Akadêmia chose to perform several concerts. We attended the one at the Oratoire du Louvre in Paris dedicated to Johann Christoph Bach, the uncle of the famous cantor from Leipzig and a member of one of the most productive musician families in the history of music.

The audience may think that this evening’s programme is not by the headline act, but his understudy (although being Johann Sebastian Bach’s understudy is no mean feat!). But in reality, the programme presents the music of a highly talented composer, with a splendidly written polyphony for the double choir, amazingly virtuosic melodic lines for the violin solo and audacious harmonies. The fact that some of his works were attributed to Johann Sebastian is testimony to the high quality of his compositions.

The deep respect for musical sources that Akadêmia brings to its interpretations reveals clear tones, distinct colours and subtle melodic lines. The sweep of Françoise Lasserre’s gestures encourages the expression of a pulse, accents and an almost theatrical musical movement. The conducting allows each soloist to linger on the plethora of expressive details and, with every allusion the artistic director’s gesture allows the singers the opportunity to develop a rhetorical discourse specific to the music of this period.

In this complete art form the countertenor Paulin Bündgen is particularly brilliant in the Achn daβ ich Wassers gnug hätte lamento. Her subtle, clear, pure and contained voice is marvellously appropriate for this music as we saw earlier at the Chaise Dieu festival this year. Using a sometimes amazing melodic line and the art of word painting found in the Italian tradition, the countertenor excels with well-developed sons filés, and long retained notes that open up with great sobriety as the music progresses. In the Meine Freudin, du bist schön dialogue it is the unfailing clarity of her melisma that captures our attention.

Despite some metallic sounding low notes, Matthew Baker provides a very careful interpretation of the lamento Wie bist du denn, o Gott, in Zorn auf mich entbrannt, enhanced by an excellent diction and projection. This bass irrefutably reveals powerful oratory skills as he colours every movement, emphasises the breaks and accentuates each dissonance. Our only reservations concern Veronika Winter with the imbalance she too often creates in the choir sections and her lack of agility in the higher notes that often come across as brutal.

The orchestra displays a constant fullness and, throughout the evening, the excellent solo violinist Flavio Losco performs extraordinary fiery and virtuosic passages with accents and dynamics that are surprisingly modern. The double choir is consistent (apart from the soprano section) and their intensity unparalleled. The male sections of the motet Fûrchte dich nicht, denn ich hab dich erlöst, where the individual personalities meet, are particularly noteworthy for their elegance and refinement.

The truth is that the strength of today’s baroque music artists lies not only in their aesthetics, their “authenticity”, apt phrasing or even the well placed ornamentations, it also — and mainly — resides in their desire for freedom, independence and their undying curiosity. We were in luck this evening, Akadêmia and its artistic director Françoise Lasserre ticked all the right boxes!