Tim Homfray attends the performance of Francoeur, Eccles, Purcell and Corelli at London’s Wigmore Hall on 19 October 2023
These two Baroque specialists have spent many hours exploring the archives of the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, picking out choice nuggets from 18th-century operas. There were numbers here from several operas by François Francoeur, including Les Augustales, Le trophée and Tarsis et Zélie. They may not appear at the Royal Opera House any time soon, but there was some beautiful music here, played with appropriate drama and eloquence, and a feeling that they knew what the opera was about, even if we didn’t.
The duo opened with three movements from Francoeur’s Sonata no.6 in G minor, bringing to the Adagio an easy flow and improvisatory-sounding phrasing; there was high energy and splendid articulation in the Courante and focused beauty in the Rondeau, played with passionate intensity. They produced torrid, high-velocity semiquaver drama in Les Augustales, and expressive arpeggiation in the Largo from Francoeur’s brother Louis’s B minor Sonata.
They then moved from France to England, and a hybrid sonata with movements from Henry Eccles’s G minor Sonata and Purcell’s Music for a while as a slow centre. There were subtleties of phrasing, dashing string crossing, double-stopping virtuosity and occasional rich, thrilling sound. Corelli’s La folia ended the programme in fine style, with de Swarte’s impeccable technique and musicality, and his close partnership with Justin Taylor, in full flow.