In his early twenties, French cellist Edgar Moreau, a rising star in performing Baroque repertoire on the cello, made his Proms debut at Cadogan Hall alongside period-instrument ensemble, Il Pomo d'Oro. Four out of the five works on the programme had never been performed at the Proms before and all of the artists were fresh to the festival. With a wealth of younger faces on stage, the lunchtime hour delved into the world of 18th-century Cello Concertos by by Platti, Vivaldi and Boccherini, as the cello moved towards a more solo role in classical repertoire.

Edgar Moreau
© Julien Mignot

Il Pomo D’Oro was led on stage by director Maxim Emelyanychev, from the harpsichord. Emelyanychev leant into the music and was on the edge of is stool attentive to each of the other five performers of the ensemble in the opening piece, Johann Adolf Hasse’s Grave and Fugue in G minor. The ensemble poured and melted into the Grave to obtain a heaviness that contrasted well with the fugue particularly within the drama of the rising basso continuo and falling violins. The grave ended with a surprising melodic twist on the violin then launched into a canonic fugue in which each of the players got to lend themselves to a tune before hitting some faster continuo rhythms that were infectious to listen to, where the bass was almost slapped with the bow.

The most virtuosic performance by Moreau was the Andante movement of Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in A minor RV419, in which he cultivated the melody and pulled it away from the ensemble. Perhaps the Andante was too indulgent in some moments and heavy on breath, where a disconnection between soloist and ensemble lost the stable continuo pulse to more of the feel of a romantic cadenza than perhaps the Baroque aria. Nevertheless it was sung, emotional and definitely hit a transcendent pause in the room. Moreau clearly felt this movement too, drying his eyes into the Allegro for a swift change of mood and a spritely finish.

After an exhausting Vivaldi and a sterling rendition of Platti’s Cello concerto in D major, in which the speed of the opening and closing movements in both concertos had been incontestably fast, came a welcome break for Moreau, where Il Pomo d’Oro played Telemann’s Divertimento in B flat major. Light, short scherzos broke up the concert and provided a mental refresher ready for the Boccherini.

Luigi Boccherini’s Cello Concerto in D major was the most memorable performance as the musicians were much more united together and interacted dynamically and physically in passing the music between them. In the Allegro there was a section where Moreau played a solo underpinned by responses from the two violinists and this difference in scoring allowed connection between different members of the ensemble with the soloist. The higher continuo being quite restrained in the period instruments, in contrast to Moreau’s stronger playing style, allowed the lower melody on the cello to become much brighter. The punchy last movement, full of fortes and bow scrubbing tempi made a climactic finish.

Moreau’s use of vibrato and romantic characteristics as a performer contrasted with the very traditional style of the period instrument specialist ensemble. Where they played very open and plain notes, Moreau swayed towards a richer embellishment on his cello. In an operatic sense, this worked well, although perhaps it was less authentic to the composers' intentions. The sensitivity in his playing was one of the most appealing things about watching Moreau on stage, never too showy, the most indulgent moments are inward and completely personal. His ability to switch between delicate nuances and buoyant rhythmic counterpoint shows maturity and grace that is an unusual and memorable talent for his age. 

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