Brighton Early Music Festival (BREMF) began, on-line, with a strain of magic: an arrangement of Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream for four players.

Rosie Bowker (flute), Eleanor Corr (violin), Mirjam Kammler (cello) and Emil Duncumb (fortepiano) sounded like a symphony orchestra sped-up, fleet and fairy-light, but in fact these brilliant artists can really play that fast, it’s just that this period ensemble emit such bright sounds. Only the cello, which doubled as a percussion instrument, delivers any rich resonance. The festival effect was augmented by some witty animation, somewhere between Lotte Reiniger and Noggin the Nog, that will definitely broaden the appeal.

Pocket Sinfonia

The visuals accompanying Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony were less impressive but fully justified by their expression of the Festival’s theme, environmental responsibility. The musical setting by Hummel is a delight, although at first I wondered if my audio system was rattling. It was those higher resonances again, with a delicate buzz beneath from the cello. Sometimes I could almost hear a rustic hurdy-gurdy, sometimes clarinets and brass amongst the rippling brook and bird calls. Beethoven-lite certainly, but not short-changed.

Incidentally, if you ask what Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Hummel have to do with Early Music, it’s all in the approach, reconstructing earlier performance conditions, for example by using the forte-piano and wooden flute.

This enchanting concert is available on YouTube for one week

23 October 2020
[rating: 4.5]
Andrew Connal

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