Monday, 17 August 2009

FESTIVAL MUSIC REVIEW: Bach for Breakfast * * * *

Bach for Breakfast is quite the preferable way to do mornings. The room is overflowing with classical music enthusiasts who are here to relax and be gently entertained over a cup of coffee.

Beginning with a Bach piece called Gamba Sonata, cellist Ashok Klouda and pianist Simon Lane prove to be tremendous, serious young musicians. Lane's quirky, animated but focused style is so different that I can't take my eye off him, while Klouda is also profoundly skilled, moving and passionate. They also perform Wieniawski's Scherzo Tarantella in G Op. 16 another that is meant for the violin but is replaced with the cello, an entirely unnoticeable fact that Klouda pulls off wonderfully.

Other Bach pieces, 'Aus liebe will mein Heiland sterban' (St Matthew Passion), and then the appropriate 'Ei! wie schmekt ker Coffee Susse' (Coffee Cantata), are performed by soprano Madeleine Pierard and pianist Simon Lepper. Pierard is kind enough to explain the stories behind the songs, which illustrate Bach's sense of humour. For example, in the Coffee Cantata, a girl pleads with her father, who insists that coffee is evil, that she cannot live without it: Mm! how sweet the coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, mellower than muscatel wine. Coffee, coffee I must have, and if someone wishes to give me a treat, ah, then pour me out some coffee! Although obviously not sung in English, it's vivid in Pierard's impeccable performance as to what exactly is taking place in each moment of this beautiful, if also very humorous, operatic piece.

Finally, Handel's 'Ah, Crudel' (Rinaldo) and 'Tormani a vagheggiar' (Alcina) are Pierard and Lepper's closing songs that has the audience soaking it all in, eyes closed and satisfying smiles abound. It is a performance that gracefully sends us off to the breakfast room, which has a stunning view of the castle, for pastries, coffee and tea, and to ponder the exceptional talent just witnessed, as well as how good life can be with music like this in the world.

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