Vivaldi, Handel and Bach

Presented by The Bach Ensemble of Edinburgh, the programme for this concert comprised of lesser-known and hugely underappreciated works by the three baroque greats: Antonio Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico Nos. 10, 11 and 12, George Friedrich Handel’s Silete Venti, and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4.

A very beautiful and stylised performance from all parties.

Vivaldi’s three concerti for violin, L’Estro Armonico No.10, 11 and 12, which translates roughly as something between ‘The Harmonic Fancy’ or ‘The Musical Flush’, were performed by a range of soloists: No.10, written for 4 violins, featured Robert Dick, Sheena Jardine, Kate Miguda and Simon Graham, with direction at the harpsichord from John Cameron. No. 11 featured two violin soloists, Simon Graham and Kate Miguda; the single violin solo part in No. 12 was played by Claire Docherty. The concerti highlighted the warmth and precision of the ensemble’s very tasteful and stylish playing, adhering very nicely to the conventions of the period on principally modern instruments. The soloists and ensemble in general did a remarkable job of capturing the flavour and fire of Vivaldi, as well as the passion and liveliness of his volatile writing. Occasionally small subtleties of articulation were lost due to the church’s acoustic, which was a little echoey. A very musical and vivacious rendition of a lesser known and much undervalued pieces, with all the vigour and fire required in Vivaldi.

The following piece, written in London by German composer G.F. Handel, was the Latin motet for soprano (Electra Lochhead), Silete Venti. This was an absolute delight of a piece, previously unknown to me, containing all the pomp and grace of Handel. The addition of double reeds added texture and grandiosity to the lively and almost frenzied overture, which ends with an unexpected and powerful soprano entry out of nowhere. Her voice is superb, with a real openness and freedom in her high notes, which soar above all other textures. Her phrasing is incredibly musical, at times she appears to hold back a little too much, and consonants are frequently lost in the difficult acoustic, making the text hard to comprehend on occasion. The Date Certa has a renewed power, with extremely good vocal support, and moments of genuine flair. The last movement, Alleluja, is the most enjoyable and joyful, with obvious enjoyment from Lochhead in this beautiful final movement. A very pleasing and controlled, if rather conservative, interpretation of a gorgeous piece.

J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4, comprising a full baroque orchestra with the addition of oboes, trumpets and timpani, was stately and occasionally quite playful. The individual movements, all very different in character, comprised different baroque dances, before cumulating in a wonderfully lively and forward-moving Réjouissance, with increased prominence of timpani and trumpets.

The concert exposed the audience to more esoteric repertoire by three of the most famed baroque composers, delivering a very beautiful and stylised performance from all parties. A very enjoyable concert.

Reviews by Fiona Russell

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The Blurb

The Bach Ensemble of Edinburgh return to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for a fifth consecutive year for two concerts. Here they perform Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4, Handel’s Cantata Silete Venti with soprano Electra Lochhead and three concertos from Vivaldi's L'Estro Armonico Op 3, No. 10, 11 and 12 with violin soloists Robert Dick, Claire Docherty, Simon Graham, Sheena Jardine and Kate Miguda, performing in the historic setting of Canongate Kirk.