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Music and Dance Reviews : Bastille Day Music at Getty Museum

It wasn’t the best of concerts. It wasn’t the worst of concerts. Just like La Revolution itself, Saturday’s appropriately titled program in the Getty Museum’s peristyle garden, “Music Before and After Bastille Day,” was not without mishap.

No one was sent to the guillotine, but there was one casualty earlier in the day: Soprano Mary Rawcliffe reportedly fell victim to an allergy. To the rescue came Susan Judy, who, on scarcely more than two hours notice, performed yeoman’s duty in delivering Revolution-era songs by Dalayrac, Gaveaux, Philidor and Becourt. Though one had to admire her pure, sweet tone and sensitive phrasing, her voice lacked both projection and range and it appeared that she had far too little time with which to acquaint herself with the text.

The purely instrumental installments were characterized by rhythmically precise, well-balanced ensemble-work and intelligent, stylish phrasing. Intonation, however, especially when the strings played double stops, proved a recurrent problem. Violinists Elizabeth Blumenstock and Anthony Martin, viola da gamba player Martha McGaughey and harpsichordist Arthur Haas brought elegance and vigor to Francois Couperin’s “Sonade: L’espagnol,” but found it necessary to retune the period instruments at every possible opportunity. McGaughey had some difficulty in negotiating the technical hurdles in Marin Marais’ Suite, “D’un gout etranger” and some of her notes could barely be heard.

Haas gave clean, articulate and highly charged readings of harpsichord works by Claude-Benigne Balbastre, among them a spirited march based on the “Marseillaise.”

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