This review is an Ionarts exclusive.
Harpsichordist Olivier Baumont
Starting with the good, there was French harpsichordist Olivier Baumont, whom we last reviewed at the Library of Congress ten years ago. From the composer's delightful body of keyboard music, he gave a graceful and varied performance of the A minor suite (1706), the opening of the prelude free and improvisatory in style, the Allemande not too fast and with notes inégales that were not mannered, and some pleasing embellishments on repeats, especially in the Courante. The two Sarabandes were not overly slow, with an interesting registration choice to distinguish the second one. On the second half, Baumont sat secondo to Andrew Appel's first harpsichord, for the composer's own transcription of some of the dance music from Les Indes Galantes, something that was as unexpected as it was delightful -- I am now searching for all the double-harpsichord arrangements I can find.
By comparison the other instrumental contributions to this concert were not nearly as fine, from the company's artistic director, Ryan Brown, on violin and Donna Fournier, who stepped in at the last minute on viol. This made the first of Rameau's Pièces de clavecin en concert and the accompaniment of some of the concert's vocal pieces somewhat disappointing. Four singers sang the various vocal parts, with airy soprano Gaële Le Roi impressing most, in an occasional cantata composed by Rameau for the feast day of St. Louis, a work brought to light about forty years ago by musicologist Mary Cyr. Laetitia De Beck Spitzer, Kelly Ballou, and baritone David Newman made mostly slender contributions to a few comic airs, plus three rather funny and complicated canons, the texts for most of which were risqué enough to be left out of the program. It was a charming but lightweight overview of some of Rameau's lesser works.