Bath Bachfest: La Serenissima
This last concert in the Bachfest 2013 took us to 17/18th century Venice in the company of two of the city's finest composers, Albinoni and Vivaldi, both contemporary with Bach. Director Adrian Chandler was quick to refute the criticism that Vivaldi didn't write over 500 concerti: he wrote one concerto 500 times. And then went on to show us the authentic Vivaldi, played with tremendous energy and elan. It was particularly instructive to hear the hear the whole of the Four Seasons played as one complete work, because it illustrated the level of musical invention Vivaldi brought to his music and how exceptionally easy on the ear it is. This was fine playing, demonstrating all the composer's rhythmic vigour and orchestral colour.
Chandler will have played it many times, but his virtuosity and feel for the quality of the music, allied to the communication with his players and thus with the audience, was outstanding. The two Albinoni pieces were full of life and zest, Simon Munday's trumpet giving the C Major Sinfonia a blaze of potent strength. And we had three lovely songs from Mhairi Lawson, who opened with Si la Gondola Avere, an anonymous 18th century ballad. I especially enjoyed the rather soulful Il fidarsi della spene, from Vivaldi's opera L'Olimpiade, sung with tender longing and D'ira e furor armato with Simon Munday on the trumpet, was a fine combination of sound which filled the abbey with joyful vitality. A fascinating trip to Venice, then, in the company of these gifted players, whose artistry gave the music vibrant reality and Chandler's trenchant comments gave added interest.
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A final comment: how about some of Bach's choral music for future festivals? We had orchestral, harpsichord and cello music – and excellent they were too. I'd love to hear, say, Roderick Williams singing Ich habe genug or Mhairi Lawson in the Wedding Cantata. Just a suggestion, with due deference to Amelia Freedman's legendary reputation as a programme builder: and the forward planning involved. Peter Lloyd Williams