Duo Dorado, Chichester Cathedral, Nov 15
The history of Western Classical Music is a succession of glorious ages. Some more glorious than others perhaps but none more so than the C18th baroque. We might like to think we can tell Bach from Handel, sometimes, and even Corelli and Telemann but none are quite so distinctive as Vivaldi. At a time when the artist served their art and not the other way round, before personality entered the equation, he found his formula, like a pop group that stumbles on a successful recipe for hit records and decides to stay with it. But not even any of them mined their rich seam quite as thoroughly as the red priest.
Before him, though, Hazel Brooks (vln) and David Pollock (harpsichord) made their way via Nicola Matteis either side of Bach. The Matteis Suite in F major included a bit of a highland fling and his Suite in E minor a melancholy prelude with the harpsichord’s careful tread, the violin in dialogue with itself in the fugue, stillness and longing in all that cathedral air in the aria amorosa and the keyboard following the main theme’s skip in the allegro.
By way of some contrast, the Bach Fugue BWV 1026 was sonorous and velvet, Hazel’s tempo exactly the right shade of adagio, spacious and in a mood of acceptance. One instinctively knows that Bach is right and, having studied Vivaldi scores, added something profound of his own.
Any composer active circa 1700, which probably wasn’t him, would be glad to claim the Variations on La Folia. It is attributed to Anon, that prolific and various composer of all the ages, which would give it all the advantages of being non-autobiographical if it weren’t for it not being credited to anyone only making for more speculation. It was a spell-binding little adventure, exploring everywhere it might go from its simple few opening notes. It’s from a manuscript in Oxford and ‘probably Italian’, Hazel told me under the duress of interrogation and could easily be by Iachimo Anarchatelli, Diabolo Giambarladini or anybody else we’ve never heard of. What a great thing to leave behind and not even be remembered for, certainly a highlight of the fast-diminishing year.
Viv can at least be relied on to be Viv, though, and the prelude to his Sonata RV 758 was a swaying song in which one could persuade oneself one heard phrases from Winter. It’s when you think you’ve heard an echo of The Four Seasons that you know, as was the Corrente faintly like Summer. Neither he nor Duo Dorado would want to leave you sad, though, and the Presto was flamboyant joie de vivre.
They are a duo and David’s contribution from behind set or accorded with the mood. They are a duo like Tyrannosaurus Rex or Wham! were in which the front person gets most of our attention but they also serve who do essential other bits.