Pamela Thorby’s Wigmore Hall Concert – 29th May

W.F. Bach
Overture in G minor (prev. attrib. J.S. Bach, BWV 1070)
Concerto in F major
Suite in A minor, TWV 55: a2
Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro in E flat, RV 130
Sinfonia in G ’alla rustica’, RV 151
’Concerto per Flautino’ in G major (orig. C major), RV 443

Pamela Thorby (recorder)
Sonnerie directed by Monica Huggett
[Monica Huggett & Emilia Benjamin, violins; Katherine McGillivray, viola; Joseph Crouch, cello; Peter McCarthy, double bass; Matthew Halls, harpsichord]

Reviewed by: CI

Reviewed: 29 May, 2002
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

To launch her debut album on Linn as featured soloist, Pamela Thorby and Sonnerie brought a selection from their Baroque concertos CD to the Wigmore Hall. The evening’s entertainment balanced relative classics of the repertoire with some rarer gems – all performed with style and panache.

The concert opened with Telemann’s Suite in A minor (some may recall Thorby performed this here with Pinnock in 2000). I was particularly impressed by the characterisation of the movements in this performance. Whether French or Italianate, dance-like or virtuosic, the appropriate style was always captured and maintained successfully. Thorby manoeuvred fluidly between the roles of soloist and ensemble colouring, which this piece requires. Her combination with a small group, rather than the more usual chamber orchestra, meant that the balance between recorder and players was unusually excellent. Thorby was able to shine in the soloistic sections – at times decorated with beautifully florid ornaments – and to combine successfully when tutti.

The two contrasting Vivaldi sinfonias, interspersed between the concertos, provided a refreshing interlude for both audience and soloist. As the name suggests, Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro was very atmospheric and evocative, whereas ’alla rustica’ reflected the more typical Vivaldi with its dancing figurations, violinistic sequences and folk influences. Sammartini’s concerto for soprano recorder closed the first half and saw Thorby effectively portraying the naïve, melancholic and exuberant aspects of the work with obvious enjoyment.

The second half opened with an Overture by W.F. Bach; an enjoyable suite with some “cracking fugues!” (according to Huggett’s humorous introduction). It seems surprising that this piece was previously attributed to J.S. Bach, despite the undeniable baroque character, as there were many aspects suggestive of the pending classical style.

To close the evening, Thorby performed the ever-popular Vivaldi C major Concerto. I was initially sceptical about the choice to transpose this piece for performance on soprano, rather than the more common sopranino recorder, but was soon convinced by the brilliance of this rendition. Thorby shined throughout the impressive passagework sections and managed to add an individual flavour, particularly in the middle movement. Here, she opted for a virtuoso choice of interpretation that matched her musical personality.

The extended applause was rewarded by the ensemble’s arrangement of a Rameau ’Tambourin’. In this short piece all the qualities that made the evening a success were revealed – impressive ensemble, intuitive style and a clear expression of enjoyment.

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