Review: Academy of Ancient Music,

Leeds Town Hall, Saturday 14th March 2020

DAVID Blackadder had replaced an unwell Alison Balsom at short notice, but the Academy of Ancient Music’s mouthwatering menu of Baroque masterpieces remained as originally advertised.

Both parts of the programme opened with an extract from a Birthday Ode for an English sovereign: Daniel Purcell’s Sound the Trumpet (from the Masque of Hymen) and older brother Henry’s Sound the Trumpet (from Come, Ye Sons of Art). The grand rhetorical flourishes were projected with startling clarity and ravishing tone from soprano Soraya Mafi and David Blackadder’s natural trumpet obligato. Solo textures were underpinned by the ripe sonorities of the period instrument orchestra directed by Chad Kelly. This young conductor’s sweeping gestures from in front of his harpsichord and chamber organ radiated visceral energy. Even this was not enough for Chad Kelly who went a step further by playing the elaborate organ solo in Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Opus 3 No 6, on the Town Hall’s grand organ.

Handel’s lovely Eternal Source of Light Divine, from the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, composed in 1713, embodied the third Royal greeting of the evening. Francesco Venturini’s pathos suffused Sonata Grosso in G minor Opus 1, and Guiseppe Torelli’s lively Trumpet Concerto in D delivered two more rarities. Baldassarre Galuppi’s Alla tromba della fama - To the trumpet of fame - was embellished by Soraya Mafi’s effortlessly high tessitura.

The interplay between the ripieno (or full orchestra) and a smaller group of solo instruments beautifully captured the infectious sonorities of Handel’s Concerto Grosso in G,Opus 6, No 1. More Handel followed in the shape of the Trumpet Concerto in B flat. This piece is a transcription from his early Oboe Concerto.

JS Bach provided the red meat on the menu: the Cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (Exult in God, every land!) scored for soprano, solo natural trumpet and orchestra. Soraya Mafi and David Blackadder’s vitality of expression was simply glorious.

There could have scarcely been a more apt ending to a wonderful concert than Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim (from Samson). Soprano, trumpeter and bouyant orchestral textures were at their most luminescent, bathed in the spacious acoustic of Leeds Town Hall.

This event was live-streamed. Visit the Academy of Ancient Music Facebook pages and experience the entire concert.

Geoffrey Mogridge