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Saturday, July 1, 2023

BAROQUE 2000 Tempest, Thunder and Lightning: Review

Our Baroque 2000 ensemble never fail to deliver, and this was a particularly enjoyable and successful concert. (Review by Keith Millar)

It is pretty normal for Baroque music to be wonderfully flamboyant, dramatic, and ornate of spirit. Add thunder and lightning and spectacular storms to it, and you certainly dial it up a notch or two.

This was certainly the case with the marvellous Baroque 2000 concert performed at the Mariannhill Monastery Church last Sunday.

Providing the crash, bang and wallop was the music of Antonio Vivaldi, undoubtably one of the most popular baroque composers of all, and French masters Jean-Philippe Rameau and Jean Féry Rebel. All pieces celebrating the drama that nature can create.

Joining the Baroque ensemble was the KZNPO Principal Tympanist, Stephane Pechoux, who performed on an eclectic mix of percussion instruments – from a sheet of metal to create the sound of thunder to a baroque drum, which was made by himself and Baroque 2000 Director, Michel Schneuwly, from the timber of an abandoned electrical cable capstan.

He also used a wind machine. An interesting device which I last saw in the 1960’s in the SABC Sound Effects Library. That was before the days of an abundance of pre-recorded sound effects or electronic devices. It is a large wooden slated drum encircled with canvas. When turned, the canvas rubs against the slats and makes a very authentic wind noise, from a breeze to a hurricane.

Jean Féry Rebel’s (1666-1747) who was recognized as a great inventor and innovator of musical ideas. Les Élémens (The Elements), a simphonie nouvelle, is a ballet of the late Baroque period which emphasises this. It is a bold and spectacular work which depicts the creation of the world.

The programme featured two pieces by French composer and music theorist, Jean-Phillipe Rameau (1683- 1764). The first was Danse des Sauvages (Dance of the Savages) from his opera Les Indes Galantes (The Amorous Indies) which featured the aforementioned drum.

In keeping in the theme of the concert, Rameau second contribution was from his comic Opera Platée which features a raging storm as Mercury comes down to earth from the heaven.

The great Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) also provided two works to the programme.

Firstly, we heard La Tempesta di Mare (Storm or Tempest at Sea), a short but lively and energetic piece that lives up to its name.

To finish the concert, we heard the wonderful Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It is a massively popular work depicting hot days, soft breezes, sounds of insects and birds, but also violent thunderstorms to break up the stillness.

The soloist for this work was the ebullient Baroque 2000 Concertmaster Ralitza Macheva. She also provided anecdotes about the music between each item with great charm.

Also providing a different dimension to the concert was the solo work on the flute and piccolo by Evelien Ballantine, while it was a pleasure to see David Smith back on the Harpsichord after some time.

Our Baroque 2000 ensemble never fail to deliver, and this was a particularly enjoyable and successful concert.

Baroque 2000 will be taking a two-month break but will be back in September with more fabulous music.

For more details contact Baroque 2000 Director Michel Schneuwly on 0823035241 or at

Baroque 2000 is sponsored by Die Rupert Musiekstigting. – Keith Millar