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Union: Les Violons du Roy with Heidi Grant Murphy

Handel: Concerto Grosso in D Minor, Op. 6, No. 10
Handel: L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
Mozart: Exsultate jubilate, K. 165
Gluck: Don Juan
Haydn: Symphony No. 45 in F-Sharp Minor

Les Violons du Roy
Heidi Grant Murphy, soprano
 Bernard Labadie, conductor


Les Violons du Roy (The King's Strings), from Quebec City, with soprano Heidi Grant Murphy, presented an excellent concert of Baroque and Classical works under the baton of Bernard Labadie. Using mostly Baroque instruments and bows, the 15-member ensemble's string sound was limpid. Tempi and articulations in both Baroque and Classical repertory were brisk, crisp and clean.

However, the opening two Handel pieces, though quite finely played, would have been greatly improved by the presence of a continuo harpsichord, a somewhat surprising omission in this day and age. Following the Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 10, with its really gorgeous dynamic contrasts, Murphy joined the group for excerpts from L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato by Handel. Her voice is not large and especially lacks force in the middle of its range. But it is very well trained and she has an exquisite sense of style, especially in ornamentation and in coloratura passages. These same qualities stood her in good stead in Mozart's gemlike and very demanding Exultate jubilate, K. 165, which closed the program's first half.

Excerpts from Gluck's ballet music for Don Juan afforded perhaps the best playing of the evening. Seldom heard and most extraordinary music, the 11 sections encompassed the entire range of string sound, from the most spirited rapid passagework to the subtlest, barely audible pizzicatos. One could almost see the dances, I thought.

Haydn's Symphony No. 45 in F-Sharp Minor closed the program. Dubbed the "Farewell" symphony because all the players but two leave the stage in the course of its final movement, the work is by turns bold and aggressive, then incredibly sweet and lyrical. The slow movement was particularly passionate. Labadie's conducting style uses a lot of body language but is firm in beat and persuasive in expressivity.

The large audience responded with well-deserved enthusiasm and prolonged applause, prompting a reprise of a fandango-like movement from the Gluck suite.

Isthmus, January, 1999
Copyright 1999 Jess Anderson

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