REVIEW: Medicine and Mortality: Ensemble Molière

November 7, 2016


Life, death and beyond with music by Marais, Rameau and Forqueray

Ensemble Molière

Inspired by Marin Marais’ musical illustration of an 18th-century operation, Ensemble Molière followed  the story of Monsieur Valancourt, a fictional Parisian gentleman, with music from the most innovative and emotive composers of the era.  With arrangements of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s lavish operas to intimate pieces for solo viol. Medicine and illness have often been depicted in music over the years, from tuberculosis in Puccini’s La bohème to madness or delirium in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, this programme presented a unique convergence of medical history and instrumental virtuosity from the French baroque era.


The Ensemble Moliere brought us rather overlooked and sometimes neglected music from the French baroque and presents it with an artistic flair that adds real texture to the enjoyment of the music. The dramatic story, rather morbid and sad, of a gentlemen’s failing operation, with some seriously interesting facts thrown in, (who knew the closest connection between Bach and Handel was they shared the same eye surgeon!) The story provided a delicious grisly narrative to accompany the refinement of the programme of music, some of it very familiar from its use in film but other pieces a rare treat to hear in public. Marais La Sonnerie de Sainte Geneviève du Mont de Paris was superb, the element of the bells being obsessively picked out and  repeated in an neurotic ostinato pattern, it felt urgent, fresh and like I’d never heard it before. Harpsichordist Satoko Doi-Luck was on fine form and was thrilling to listen to. Her settings of segments of Rameau were subtle and allowed the complex interactions of instrument and emotions to glow and it was a superb finish to an excellent concert.


The Friends Meeting house’s stripped back Quaker purity is the perfect offset to the complex and vibrant decadence of this music and I enjoyed sitting up in the gallery watching and listening to this superb group of musicians.  They played with flair, vigour and real bounce which played into the macabre theme with warmth and humour.

BREMF festival continue to provide an interesting and diverse program of music bringing innovative and engaging performances of quality music to a wide and appreciative audience.

Ensemble Molière are:

Flavia Hirte flute

Alice Earll violin

Kate Conway viola da gamba

Jakab Kaufmann bassoon

Satoko Doi-Luck harpsichord  

For full programme of events during Brighton Early Music Festival, click here: