The English Concert

MICHAEL DRAKE King's Lynn Festival: St Margaret's Church, King's Lynn


A programme solely of Mozart's serenades has a somewhat tenuous connection with the festival's British theme, but with the link in the ensemble's name it was well worth the imaginative stretch and gave an opportunity to hear some works not regularly on musical menus.

Led with animated enthusiasm by their newly appointed director, Andrew Manze, the English Concert take a real step back in time with original or copy instruments. The first glimpse of the young Mozart's genius came in the opening Divertimento in F – powerful when required, subtle when that was called for until the surprise ending.

Copying is supposed to be complimentary but even in 'borrowing' Bach's style for the Adagio and Fugue in C minor, Mozart is always unique, and the EC handled the fugue's complexities with their own particular enrichment.

Staying with baroque, the Serenata Notturna is again unique in having a timpani solo with its own cadenza. But did Mozart write it for his employer, whom he disliked, as some sort of retribution or joke?

The musical jokes were abundant in Ein Musikalischer Spass and showed not only how brilliant is Mozart's music but that it takes real skill to perform awfully, well – the string quintet in the third movement in particular. What if Mozart had written it 'properly'?

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Finally, the well-loved Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Of course we've heard it scores of times before, but the English Concert provided an almost definitive performance of ultimate freshness.

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