Kings Place celebrates Baroque around the clock for 2016

The Brodsky Quartet

The Brodsky Quartet - Credit: Archant

Twelve months of concerts, talks and study days will examine music from the early 17th Century to the mid-18th this year, writes Michael White.

2016. For Pope Francis, who got in quickly, it’s the Year of Mercy. For Britain it may just turn out to be the Year of Leaving Europe (though let’s hope not). And for various charities and causes it will doubtless be the year of other things besides.

But at Kings Place it’s going to be the Year of the Baroque – or, as KP is calling it, “Baroque Unwrapped”. Twelve months of concerts, talks and study days designed to sum up what was happening in music from the early 17th Century to the mid-18th.

In terms of composers, that means Monteverdi and Cavalli through to Bach and Handel. And if the programme does nothing else it should demonstrate that however dependent Baroque writing may have been on rules, conventions and repeating formulae, it was still capable of infinite variety and greater possibilities than wallpaper-music: the insult that occasionally attaches to this repertoire.

But then the word Baroque was, as originally coined, intended to insult. It meant grotesque, bizarre; and music from the 17th/18th Centuries can certainly be florid, decorated to excess. But it can also be serene, contemplative and spare – as what’s on offer at Kings Place over the next twelve months will show.

The programme starts on January 14th with sacred works by Monteverdi and Cavalli from the Orchestra (& Choir) of the Age of Enlightenment. And taking their cue from the OAE, many of the performers taking part in “Baroque Unwrapped” will be leading lights of the period-performance world, including The Sixteen, the Dunedin Consort, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and lutenist Jakob Lindberg.

But there are also contributions from artists and ensembles with a different perspective on Baroque. The Brodsky Quartet and Aurora Orchestra will be involved, as well as jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock extemporising on Bach and the edgy O/Modernt Kammarorkester from Sweden fusing Vivaldi with Pink Floyd.

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Full details are at Two things I’m personally looking forward to are a study day on “How to be HIP” in May (HIP standing for Historically Informed Performance) and a “Weekend of Excessively Good Taste” in November - good taste for these purposes exemplified by music from the time of Louis XIV. Let it be a lesson to you.