During my recent experience of “Alcina” I made several new and delightful discoveries. One of them was the genius of Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre, Grenoble. I don’t get much opportunity to listen to live baroque orchestras, mainly radio, recordings and TV performances so this was a great treat. I love the very particular techniques of baroque instrumental playing and the visual delight of beautifully crafted instruments.
Experience them here (with thanks to protestant 7) in a performance of the Overture to Act 1 of Rameau’s opera “Platée” which, like most music of the French Baroque, is inextricably linked to the dance.
Minkowski is a wonderful director to watch. I’m sure you have all experienced those conductors who thrash around and generally detract from the performance by being visually overpowering and distracting – at “Alcina” at The Barbican Minkowski showed what a genuine genius of a communicator he is. In the audience, of course, one sees the back view but Minkowski is all inclusive. He addressed the audience at the beginning, dedicating the performance to Dame Joan Sutherland and explaining the cast change. During the bows he acknowledged the principals in the orchestra who had played a prominent part in the performance and he did this from floor level – an unusual courtesy indicating mutual respect and autonomy between players and director. He also worked particularly sympathetically with the singers. It’s one thing to be able to watch your singers from a pit in a “normal” performance but another to have the singer beside you and often behind as in a concert performance. Minkowski frequently turned to watch as well as listen, ensuring complete unity and security and he was never distracting or overwhelming.
But his main focus of communication, of course, is with the players themselves. Naturally hands, gesture and facial expression come into it but …… watch his eyes. There is something completely beautiful about the look between musicians as they engross themselves, thinking and moving as one. Those of you lucky enough to play under a similar conductor be very grateful. Those of you lucky enough to have seen and heard Minkowski and friends are no doubt huge fans. Those of you who, like me until recently, have yet to experience this magic – don’t leave it too long. You won’t regret making the effort.
Experience the excellent website
Read about Marc Minkowski
Treat yourself to a recording for Christmas
If you ever get the chance to hear (and see!) this wonderful man, particularly with his equally wonderful orchestra – DO GO!! Calendar