At the French Embassy, Delights From the French Baroque

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A flutist who also plays the bagpipes is a rarity, as is playing the recorder, flute and bagpipes in one concert. Francois Lazarevitch did it beautifully Monday in the last of the French Embassy's Baroque Series. In their American premiere, Lazarevitch, viola da gambist Nima Ben David and harpsichordist Elisabeth Geiger played the music of seven French contemporaries of Bach and Vivaldi. But their delightful performance showed that French baroque music isn't German or Italian, an issue embroiling the French in controversy for a century.

The trio made it clear that French music has a descriptive character like no other. Lazarevitch strapped on his musette as if undertaking a parachute jump. Embraced by this miniature, handheld bagpipes (its air supplied by a bellows compressed under the arm), he played "La Noce Champetre" ("The Country Wedding"), a witty piece narrating nuptial events from the processional and vows to the dinner music and wedding night, the musette's timbres varying from discreet honking to undulating tunefulness.

With Lazarevitch as soloist, the ensemble was most impressive in a soulful account of Jean-Marie Leclair's Flute Sonata in G and Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Pieces de Clavecin en Concert," in which the group underlined the music's concertolike excitement and tonal vibrancy. Ben David's version of Marin Marais's "Le Tombeau de Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe" mournfully but movingly depicted a burial. On a two-manual harpsichord built by Bethesda's Mark Adler, Geiger laced a suite of Jean-Francois Dandrieu with graceful filigree and a strong rhythmic impulse.

-- Cecelia Porter

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