The dazzling musical dance of the festival through the life of ballet pioneer Marie Sallé

Newbury Spring Festival: Ensemble Molière at The Corn Exchange on Monday 9 May. Criticism of CHARLES MEDLAM

The first of the Headley Trust’s Lunchtime Recitals for Young Artists featured the Ensemble Molière. Based in London, they specialize in the historically informed interpretation of Baroque music on period instruments and include musicians from Japan, the UK and Germany.

Their program broadly followed the life of Marie Sallé, one of the most important choreographers and dancers of the early 18th century and a pioneer of action ballet.

All the courts of Europe had used the dance for hierarchical display (e.g. Elizabeth I and her pavanes), but Louis XIV turned it more into a sophisticated political tool.

His appearance at court as the “Sun King” at the age of 14 was a dynastic statement, which everyone around him was bound to take seriously. France and dance would be forever linked.

The Ensemble Molière concert opened as it should with Campra’s Overture to his opera Tancrède, delivered with style and accuracy. Three entries from Handel’s opera Alcina followed; good dreams, bad dreams, and the struggle between good and bad dreams, by turns dreamy, grotesque then eventful.

An entertaining suite from Rameau’s Indes Galantes, transcribed for the forces at their disposal by the group’s harpsichordist Satoko Doi-Luck, was full of fascinating sounds and heartfelt gestures.

Handel’s suite Terpsichore, written for Marie Sallé to dance at Covent Garden in 1734, provoked dazzling acting in the highly contrapuntal overture and fine paragraph shaping in the long closing chaconne.

Les Caractères de la danse by Jean-Féry Rebel is a collection of ten dances in vogue in the Paris of Louis XV, including a memorable musette with bassoon solo.

A quick overview of all this would be very useful to you before going to the ball.

The Ensemble Molière plays with intelligence, precision and an obvious and contagious love of its music.

Each piece was introduced in an engaging manner by a different member of the ensemble, reinforcing the already persuasive contact established with their audience.

I am sure that everyone present will wish them every success in their endeavours.

Corina C. Butler