Notes and Editorial Reviews
PORTRAIT. AMANDINE BEYER
Amandine Beyer (vn); Gli Incogniti;
Baldomera Barciela (vdg);
Ronaldo Lopes (baroque gtr
); Anna Fontana (hpd
); Assemblée des Honnestes Curieux;
Pascal Montelihet (thb);
Amélie Michel (fl);
Marianne Muller (vdg);
Edna Stern (fp)
ZIG ZAG 325 (2 CDs: 121:31)
Diverse bizzarrie sopra la vecchia Sarabanca ô pur Ciaccona.
Sonata No. 6 in b.
Suite for Theorbo and Violin in G.
C. P. E. BACH
Violin Sonata in b,
Partita No. 2 in d.
Violin Concerto No. 2 in E,
Concerto Grosso in g,
Violin Concerto in b,
The Four Seasons:
Concerto for Violin and Organ in C
This double-CD set collects excerpts from several past recordings by Baroque violinist Amandine Beyer plus one new recording, the Concerto Grosso of Arcangelo Corelli. The booklet contains an interesting interview with Beyer, fortunately translated into English (more on that in a bit), but no biographical information. For that, one must go to her website; despite having clicked on the “English” link three times, I was still presented with a French text, so I had to use the SDL Easy Translator to help me understand some of her background. Herewith the results of that translation, fixed up as best I can (remember Mark Twain’s translation, back from the French, of his own
Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
“Amandine Beyer’s first instrument was the flute; it was only after a few years she began the violin, in the class of Aurelia Spadaro at Aix-en-Provence. It is perhaps for this reason that, after completing her studies of ‘modern violin’ at the CNSM of Paris and writing a master’s thesis on Stockhausen, she returned to the path of early music, starting with study in Basel under Chiara Banchini. This decisive period in training allowed her to discover the world of rhetorical interpretation, and to take advantage of contact with personalities such as Hopkinson Smith, Christophe Coin, Pedro Memelsdorff (she has played several years in the all-medieval Mala Punica), Mr. Tubery, and Alfredo Bernardini. All these experiences allowed her to train as a musician and interpreter, and prompted her to start a career as an itinerant violinist, giving many concerts around the world. She currently divides her activities between the different groups in which she participates: the Assemblée des Honnestes Curieux, the Black Cornets, the Concert Françaix, the Duo Ave Pierre Hantai, and the last-formed of those on the list, Gli Incogniti.”
Like nearly all modern-day Baroque violinists, Beyer subscribes to the Strict Use of Straight Tone, which I have taken to task many times and debunked as being as false for its period as the constant use of vibrato, but as with any musician the proof is in the way she plays, not the method she uses to get there. And Amandine Beyer is
good. Despite her straight tone, she is a highly expressive musician whose shaping and phrasing of the music is curvilinear rather than sharply angled or serrated. She understands the meaning of dynamics, coloration, and personal expression through the music, and so her performances are, to my ears, consistently interesting and emotionally satisfying in addition to being musically exact.
In the interview, Beyer states that “HIP is something very interesting and of primordial importance in my work. But one just has to be careful not to create new arbitrary canons. It would be a pity if today’s performers simply began to reproduce unthinkingly the discoveries and formulas of our illustrious trailblazers of the past 40 years.” Well said. And much later on, she mentions a Vivaldi concerto she was traveling to play at age 22 or 23, when she heard a Miles Davis recording on the train and “never understood rubato better….At the moment when I was improvising the ornaments in the slow movement, I could feel the memory of his ideas going through my mind and my movements.”
This aesthetic permeates everything Beyer does, and nowhere is that more evident than in her performance of Bach’s Second Partita for solo violin. Her performance of this work is entirely different in concept, phrasing, and overall execution from the classic account by Sigiswald Kuijken, which I consider the
sine qua non
in these works, yet it is equally valid. In fact, it has even more energy, as well as an equal quality of communicating the violinist’s
about the music, which is just as important as playing all the notes. (For an example of what I mean, see my review of Thomas Zehetmair’s beautifully played but emotionally neutral performances of Bartók’s violin concertos in the last issue.) Beyer represents everything that so many modern HIP violinists do not: a very personal
of the music, which is then translated into
in addition to
She could very well have played all this music in a strict Baroque style, alternating passages of vibrato with the straight tone, and it would be just as communicative.
I also have to say that her two performing groups, Gli Incogniti and Assemblée des Honnestes Curieux, share her penchant for communication over mere technique. Listen carefully, for instance, to the way the former group plays in their recording of the Corelli Concerto Grosso: the ensemble sounds is just as crisp and well-blended as many another such groups, but there is greater richness in the lower instruments and more warmth in their overall sound. They’re
playing in the approved tonal quality that I have often compared to MIDI, a computer-generated sound that is pleasant to the ear but completely lacks humanity. Again from the printed interview, Beyer points out that “There is something gem-like about Corelli….An alchemist in the sense that he’s capable of making you play better, of making the ensemble sound more fluid, at introducing flexibility, golden colors and sparkle between the bow and the string.” And in this work, Beyer’s personality blends completely into the group. One might say they are inseparable but for this one thing: the group takes on her own personal warmth fluid phrasing. It is almost as if Amanda Beyer is playing all the instruments, though of course that’s not so.
The same aesthetic is brought to bear on her performance of the Bach Violin Concerto No. 2. With the possible exception of Helmuth Rilling’s recordings of these works, I can’t think of another version of this piece I’ve ever enjoyed more. Yes, there’s that horrible E word: enjoyment. We’re not supposed to enjoy Baroque music. We’re supposed to let it elevate us, normally without feeling anything or knowing why we don’t feel anything. Beyer, through her performances, scoffs at that notion. Music is to elevate, yes, but also to make you feel good, for that brief moment in time that you are listening to her. She is indeed an alchemist.
Needless to say, she brings the same magical touch to Vivaldi, particularly in the
of the Concerto in B Minor, and I feel that their performance of “Winter” from
The Four Seasons
is the finest performance I’ve heard of this concerto by a HIP violinist and orchestra, almost as good as the non-HIP recording by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg on EMI.
In short, I can’t say enough good things about Beyer’s musicianship and interpretive skills. Put simply, this is a heck of an album by a heck of a musician.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Suite for theorbo & violin in G major by Robert de Visée
Pascal Monteilhet (Theorbo),
Marianne Muller [Viola da Gamba] ()
Venue: L'Église de Bon Secours Paris XIe
Length: 8 Minutes 36 Secs.
Concerto for Violin in B minor, RV 390 by Antonio Vivaldi
Amandine Beyer (Violin)
Written: Venice, Italy
Length: 12 Minutes 23 Secs.
Concerto for Violin no 2 in E major, BWV 1042 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Amandine Beyer (Violin)
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany
Venue: l'Église St. Marcel Paris 5e
Length: 14 Minutes 38 Secs.
Adagio for guitar (from False Consonances of Musick) by Nicola Matteis
Amandine Beyer (Violin),
Venue: Monastery of Sao Martinho de Tibaes, Por
Length: 2 Minutes 1 Secs.
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