|THURSDAY 18th||Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment||7:30pm||Assembly Rooms||MORE INFORMATION|
|FRIDAY 19th||Rachel Podger||1:00pm||Guildhall||MORE INFORMATION|
|FRIDAY 19th||Florilegium||7:30pm||Assembly Rooms||MORE INFORMATION|
|SATURDAY 20th||Mahan Esfahani||11:00am||Guildhall||MORE INFORMATION|
|SATURDAY 20th||Academy of Ancient Music||7:30pm||Bath Abbey||MORE INFORMATION|
|SATURDAY 20th||Supper in the Pump Room||9:15pm||Pump Room||MORE INFORMATION|
After just five years Bath Bachfest is now firmly established and has earned its place in Bath’s cultural calendar. This year, not only were ticket sales the best ever but there were virtually no seats left to sell by the time the festival opened.
Good news indeed, and not only for the happy festival organisers but for local hoteliers and restaurateurs who also reported a successful weekend, and were delighted to welcome many visitors from home and overseas coming to Bath to enjoy the glorious music of J S Bach set against such a beautiful backdrop.
And our audiences were certainly not disappointed. The opening concert might have been short on Bach – although his music appeared in every other concert – but the acclaimed period-instrument Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment ensured that this short mid-winter festival got off to a ‘joyful, uplifting’ start without him. Rebecca Franks, reviewing in The Times, also noted that Bach’s “prolific contemporaries Handel and Telemann made happy bedfellows, with a selection of their sacred and secular vocal works interwoven with instrumental pieces, rarity alongside popular hit’.
Steven Devine directed the OAE from the harpsichord, and the internationally celebrated tenor Ian Bostridge showcased music by both composers, although the show-stopper was clearly Handel’s aria Scherza infida from Ariodante. ‘Spell-binding’ as Brian Hick of Lark Reviews succinctly put it.
Unfortunately, Rachel Podger had to cancel her all-Bach lunchtime concert on Friday at the last minute due to illness, but the wonderful Bojan Ćičić stepped into the breach and performed a similar programme for a very happy audience.
Bojan had always been the violin soloist for that evening’s Florilegium concert, which included Brandenburg Concerti No 3, 5 and 4. The fifth concerto provided a showcase for flautist Ashley Solomon and gave Terence Charlston a chance to shine from the harpsichord. Terence played the long solo passage at the end of the first movement magnificently and with a modern improvisatory feel to it. As one critic commented, if this had been a jazz gig there would have been thunderous applause as he ended the piece.
Mahan Esfahani has perhaps done more than anyone else to champion the harpsichord, and in a full length 11am ‘coffee concert’ on Saturday morning he showed us how and why in no uncertain terms. He played Bach’s French Suites no’s 4, 6 and 5 – and informed the audience that this was the first time he had played them in public. Nobody would ever have known! He delivered them with technical brilliance and charming enthusiasm. Mahan’s programme finished with a bravura encore by Rameau.
The 2016 Bachfest drew to a close with a performance by a third fine period orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Richard Egarr. Although by this stage it was in danger of becoming the Bach and Bojan festival, with the violinist making his third appearance before an extremely appreciative audience. The Abbey acoustic worried artistic director, Amelia Freedman, as Bach’s first Brandenburg opened the programme but proved less of a challenge thereafter. The outstanding young soprano, Mary Bevan, gave a wonderfully virtuosic performance of Vivaldi’s dramatic motet In turbato mare irato. And the evening, and the festival, ended with Vivaldi’s Concerto in D major featuring a dazzling tour-de-force final cadenza – more than 80 bars long – played by first violin Pavlo Beznosiuk.
This was a stunning end to a record-breaking festival, which has ensured its return in 2017. The Bath Bachfest team will look forward to seeing you again next February (16 -18) but, in the meantime, please ensure that you have the dates of this year’s Mozartfest in your diary: Friday 11 to Saturday 19 November 2016.
Bath Bachfest managed by Bath Mozartfest ltd. Bath Mozartfest Office, 4 Beau Street, Bath BA1 1QY. Tel: 01225 429750. Bath Mozartfest ltd registered charity number: 1040455. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.