Preview: Early Music Season

Beijing's quietest, subtlest and finest classical music festival returns

As anticipated as the coming of spring, the Forbidden City Concert Hall’s Early Music Season has returned, a three-concert series featuring outstanding performers of baroque and classical music. This year’s groups have much to offer, starting with Poland’s Il Giardino d’Amore. The orchestra has specialised in everything from French cantatas to Polish sacred music, but the programme for Enemies in Love (Sunday 9 April) features Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and a selection of Handel’s arias. Much of Handel’s music has eluded today’s repertoire, but these arias are favourites with vocalists and should be experienced. More unusual is the LuteDuo’s programme of Bach Meets Weiss (Sunday 16 April), where baroque lutenists Anna Kowalska and Anton Birula perform works by Bach and his lesser-known contemporary, Silvius Leopold Weiss.


The series’ final instalment comes courtesy of Profeti della Quinta, an all-male vocal ensemble made up of two countertenors, two tenors and a bass, singing a cappella or accompanying themselves on period instruments. They first rose to prominence by performing, and elevating, the music of Salamone Rossi, a 16th-century Jewish-Italian composer living in the shadow of Monteverdi. Their concert, Lamento D’Arianna - The Story of the Italian Madrigal from Rore to Monteverdi (Sunday 23), features work by Rossi in addition to Gesualdo, Piccinini and other giants of the age. Beijing has few musical experiences as satisfying as this annual festival; Early Music Season is not to be missed.