The Library of Congress has hosted several of the ferocious young ensembles -- including Ensemble Matheus and the Venice Baroque Orchestra -- that have lately been shaking the dust off 18th-century music with electrifying, foot-stomping performances. Vivaldi and company needed the adrenaline desperately, but it was equally satisfying to step back and take a breath on Thursday, when three of the finest early music specialists on the scene alighted at Coolidge Auditorium to present a quieter and more intimate -- but no less involving -- take on the baroque.
British violinist John Holloway, Dutch cellist Jaap ter Linden and Danish harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen make a formidable team, especially when exploring some of the less-trampled paths of the baroque. Relying less on power than on finely honed delicacy and wit, they turned their flavorful, astringent sound to good advantage in a program that included some unusual surprises. A sonata by the little-known Francesco Maria Veracini burned with dark imagination, and a trio by Boismortier -- famous mostly for his unflagging glibness -- was full of inventive, forward-looking rhythms and intriguing turns. Who knew?
The ensemble work was superb throughout, with violinist Holloway's thoughtful, clear-eyed intensity leading the way, particularly in Corelli's Sonata in E Minor, Op. 5, No. 8 -- an exercise in undiluted beauty, as far as these ears could make out. Ter Linden, whose playing is playful even at its most serious, delivered a breathtaking account of Vivaldi's Sonata No. 7 in G Minor, RV 42, for cello, while Mortensen -- dancing rapturously with his harpsichord throughout the evening -- brought off Couperin's ineffable "Les Barricades Mistérieuses" as if it were made of pure light.
-- Stephen Brookes
It's a boom time for young, female U.K. singers seeking success in America. Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse opened the floodgates last year, and now the likes of Duffy, Adele and Kate Nash are hitting our shores with hype and success. The 20-year-old Nash played a sold-out show Thursday night at the 9:30 club, but she's going to have to improve her game if she wants to keep up with the rest of those emerging stars.
Nash certainly falls on the cheeky pop side of this mini-movement. She's much more endearing than sultry, with lyrics like "You said I must eat so many lemons/'Cause I am so bitter/I said, I'd rather be with your friends, mate/'Cause they are much fitter" (from her successful single "Foundations") providing a good microcosm of the emotions dealt with on her album. The show started strong as she bashed away at her stage-center piano for four sprightly numbers, but all momentum was lost once she switched to acoustic guitar.
The combination of quiet and unreleased material didn't seem to interest the crowd, which yapped away with abandon, even causing Nash to pause for almost a full minute before starting into "I Hate Seagulls." Kiss-off ballad "[Expletive]head" brought cheers from the many young women in the crowd, but was one of a handful of songs featuring lyrics that crossed the line from keen observations to middle-school diary fare.
By the time she made it back to the piano for innocuously catchy ditties such as "Mariella" and "Foundations," the moment had passed, and Nash can only hope the same can't be said for her stateside success.
-- David Malitz