EIF 2022: Richard Egarr & Friends, Queen’s Hall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Sonata XXI con tre violini (Gabrieli); Sonata 16 for 3 violins (Fontana); Toccata Settima (Rossi); Sonata in ecco (Marini); Fantasia: Three Parts upon a Ground (Purcell); Salve Regina (Lully); Lamentation faite sur la mort très doloureuse de Sa Majesté Imperiale, Ferdinand le troisième (Froberger); Sonata for 3 violins (Schmelzer); Sonata secondo for 3 violins (Buonamente); Canon and Gigue (Pachelbel)
Richard Egarr (Harpsichord); Bojan Čičić (Violin); Rachell EllenWong (Violin); Ruiqi Ren (Violin); Alex McCartney (Theorbo); Jonathan Rees (Viola da Gamba)
Running time

If there could be one word to summarise this performance, it would be ‘joy’. The morning’s experience of seventeenth century chamber music was not what I was expecting; Richard Egarr – and friends – made it not only fascinating, but utterly uplifting.

Throughout the performance, they key thing that stuck out was the positive communication – both amongst the players, and also with the audience. Richard Egarr had such an engaging way with those of us there assembled – his introductory pieces to each item were full of fun, but with technical and historical nuggets, conveyed in a thoroughly accessible way. But what also made an impact was the constant contact between the 6 musicians themselves – their enjoyment, sense of fun, and clear commitment: both to the music, and to each other. Rarely do we see this – to such an authentic, pervasive and consistent level.

A number of the items featured the violins – the three soprano voices – moving and winding around each other. The synergy between them, while being magnetically centred on Egarr (drawn rather like iron filings to a magnet) was enthralling to witness. Egarr had his own moments on the harpsichord – and there was a most humorous introduction to Rossi’s ‘Toccata’, with its chromatic colouring being described as ‘not a piece for the headache sufferers’! In the next work, Marini had asked in his ‘Sonata, that the two violinists who form the ‘Ecco’ not be seen – and these were tantalisingly concealed off-stage.

After the Interval, Lully’s ‘Salve Regina’ gave us an example of something with a very different colour to anything else in the programme. But soon the mood changed again – and before the very next piece, the Lamentation for Ferdinand III, we heard how its composer, Froberger (after getting mugged on his visit to the UK!) included the final three f-notes as a tribute to the emperor’s ordinal number. We were all very familiar with Pachelbel’s ‘Canon and Gigue’ – which was a lovely choice as the concluding piece.

This was a programme rich in variety, technicality, and – surprisingly – entertainment. Some people in attendance had mistakenly assumed it would be an hour… but many of us wanted it to continue much longer than it did. The concluding encore – ‘a nasty idea’ to use Egarr’s own words – was his own adaptation, from the Mikado, of the ‘Three Little Maids’. An inspired and inspiring concert throughout.

The performance finished at 12.40pm.

Richard Egarr & Friends, Wednesday 24th August, 11.00am, Queen’s Hall