Passacaglia at Purcell Room, London

I went to see a lunchtime concert at the Purcell Room. The group was called Passacaglia, and although I hadn't heard of them, they have an impressive history dating back to the early 1990s. The event was part of a "Bach Weekend" festival, and while the other performances throughout the weekend were to focus on various concertos from Bach's output, Passacaglia elected to present a series of French concertos, roughly contemporary with Bach, to provide a bit of context.

My impression is that these players do a fair amount of French baroque repertoire, and from the beginning the aggregate style was light, articulated particularly in the strings, and singing. One feature that stood out immediately was the playing style of Oliver Webber, the violinist. He plays with his chin WAY off the violin, seeming to anchor the violin beneath his collarbone, almost on his chest. He also used a highly-arched bow with an interesting bow hold - thumb on the outside of the frog, on the hair. Happily, I found a video of Oliver discussing this:

When I mentioned the generally light style, I should mention that it was not bland - the players would emphasise important moments with a weighty color shift and some nice lingering. The instigator of many of these moments was Reiko Ichise, who provided an alert and active bass line on her viola da gamba. It is rare to find a continuo player in Boston with a similar presence and helpful influence on the entire ensemble. It was a real treat to see such an intimate performance between wonderful musicians with a long history together.