Review: 'The Angel and the Devil' disappoints 

click to enlarge Ghielmo and Pianca
  • Ghielmo and Pianca

The best musical duo in the world? . . . It varies, depending upon what instruments they play and the musical period in which they specialize. On Friday, viola da gambist Vittorio Ghielmi and archlute player Luca Pianca fit the bill perfectly - for French composers of the middle Baroque, i.e. the late 17th/early 18th centuries. That period includes people like Marin Marais (1656-1728), Robert de Visée (1655-1733) and Antoine Forqueray (1671-1745), the only ones represented that evening. Because of differences in playing difficulty, our players dub Marais as the "angel" and Forqueray as the "devil." I heard little difference.

Given in six sets of four selections each (the sixth set had only three), the program featured Marais in its first and third set and Forqueray in its fourth and sixth -- all short duo pieces showing the players' great craft, their marvelous inflections, their pitch-perfect intonations. I've never heard the viola da gamba (viol between the legs) and the archlute played together with such finesse.

The second and fifth sets were archlute solo pieces by Visée, with Pianca strumming the second longest lute (below the theorbo) at the same expressive level as when joined with his partner.

The problem with the concert -- for me -- was the music itself. I found it uninterestingly formulaic: mostly soft, much of it dour in mood, too little harmonic motion dominating the bass, with a plethora of decorative figures on top. Actually the liveliest piece was the final one, Forqueray's "La Leclaire," played in triplets. More music of that style would have better enabled my savoring of the performers' special, five-star talents. July 13; Indiana History Center

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