Concert Review: Forqueray in Edinburgh

On Wednesday I gave a Forqueray recital at St Cecilia’s Hall in Edinburgh with the harpsichordist Ricardo Barros. We each played a suite and some bits and pieces, and we got to use the museum’s marvellous crow-quilled Taskin original for the concert (which thankfully solved all potential balance issues before they even started!). It somehow managed to be reviewed in the Times,which went a little something like this:

To those stumbling bleary-eyed down the Cowgate after a night on the Edinburgh tiles, Barros and Byrne might sound like yet another Edinburgh comedy act. Unless you find 18th-century French viol music particularly amusing, though, you might be disappointed. Not too disappointed, however. Harpsichordist and Baroque-ophile Ricardo Barros and the viola da gamba player Liam Byrne united for this interesting concert specifically to explore the output of the relatively little-known 18th-century French viol player Antoine Forqueray.

This was the first in a series of five concerts, all with different exponents, exploring the historic keyboard collection (open for festival browsing) of diminutive St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh’s earliest surviving concert hall, whose unassuming façade is tucked away between pubs on the Cowgate. Playing on the sonorous Pascal Taskin harpsichord (1769), which survived the rigours of the French Revolution and the Second World War, Barros worked through some of the suites and harpsichord transcriptions published posthumously in 1747 in Forqueray’s name, interspersed with offerings from Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer and Marin Marais.

The suites, bold, virtuosic and most probably penned by Forqueray’s son Jean-Baptiste, include witty portraits (you were right about the hidden comedic depths) of the kind made popular by Couperin. If Couperin dissected the characters at the Royal court, Forqueray here riffs on everyone from his wedding guests back to Couperin.

Barros and Byrne, in well-balanced consort, pushed the expressivity of this Italian-influenced master, exploring the boundaries of the Baroque desire to excite the emotions. Barros occasionally sounded like the mad organist of the Baroque, flourishing thunderously through Forqueray’s La Portugaise. Byrne, too, went in for stylish virtuosity, nuanced and expressive in Forqueray’s portrait of fellow viol player Bellmont, more moving yet in a reflective wisp of Marais (Les Voix Humaines). A very diverting 90 minutes.