Baroque Carnival – Red Priest at Kings Place

Sonata Decima
Sonata in F, Op.2/4
Two in One upon a Ground
Zephiro’s Ground
Two Ricercados
Handel / Red Priest
The Messiah, the Priest and the Queen
Concerto grosso in A minor, Op.3/8
Cello Sonata in E minor – II: Amoroso
Chaconne ‘La Morangis’
Prelude in G minor
Bach / Red Priest
Johann I’m Only Dancing

Red Priest [Piers Adams (recorders), Julia Bishop (violin), Angela East (cello) & David Wright (harpsichord)]

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 28 April, 2013
Venue: Hall One, Kings Place, London

Red Priest. Photograph: www.redpriest.bandzoogle.comWith its very visual and at times overtly choreographed manner of performance, Red Priest might well have been thought too volatile an ensemble for the austere environs of Hall One at Kings Place – yet, as its debut in the London Chamber Music Series confirmed, such presentation was wholly in keeping with the music that constituted this “Baroque Carnival”.

Opening with the alternately songful and balletic impulses of a Sonata by Dario Castello – whose music exemplifies the Stilus Phantasticus such as characterised the early Baroque period – the first half continued with a Trio-Sonata which is, perhaps surprisingly, Handel’s only surviving example of a work for the present forces; recorder and violin pursuing an expressive interplay that apparently caused displeasure among the “arbiters of taste” from that era. Of the three individual pieces that followed, Purcell’s elegantly methodical and Maurizio Cazzati’s more capricious takes on the ‘ground bass’ confirm the versatility of a form that was as ubiquitous in the early seventeenth-century as the passacaglia became in the twentieth, while Diego Ortiz’s resourceful music gave more than a hint of the fêtes of ingenuity to be wrested from the ricercar over the next century. Hardly less ingenious was the suite arranged from Handel’s Messiah, which culminated in a conflation of Zadok the Priest with ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ (from the oratorio, Solomon) as might have caused its composer wry amusement.

The second half commenced with a modified two-violin concerto by Vivaldi, its hectic outer Allegros finding meaningful contrast with a Larghetto spiritoso which served as a reminder that its composer could summon music of no mean emotional depth from the most formulaic of formal gambits. The melting wistfulness of Salvatore Lanzetti’s slow movement from a cello sonata (many of which are seemingly hard of access) found apposite contrast with Antoine Forqueray’s enticingly intricate Chaconne and then Jean-Henri d’Anglebert’s deftly understated Prelude: this latter serving as the introduction to a suite drawn from Bach that once again confirmed Red Priest as musicians with an appealingly ‘non-authentic’ approach to the art of transcription. Opening with a bracing take on the first movement of the Third Brandenburg Concerto, the sequence draw on several other pieces before heading into the inimitable Toccata and Fugue in D minor – a piece which, it will be recalled, was likely never intended for the organ (or is even by J. S. Bach), and so could hardly be thought ill-suited to the present line-up.

Throughout the evening the members of Red Priest maintained a dizzying virtuosity which, along with their stage presentation, was always at the service of the music and rarely, if ever, detracted from it.

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