Review: Chichester Music Society – Julia Bishop (violin)

Julia Bishop was the guest of the Chichester Music Society on 7 March at the University of Chichester when she gave a fascinating concert entitled “The Devil’s Instrument.” This was the name given to the violin after the Reformation by certain Protestant sects because of its association with the dance. Her programme covered baroque solo violin music from the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Julia is to be particularly congratulated as a few minutes before the concert was about to start the Green Room was unexpectedly found to be locked with her violin safely inside, with no key to unlock the door. With only minutes to spare the key was found. Julia began her concert completely unruffled and played as if this was a normal state of affairs, rather than a potential crisis. A truly impressive moment.

Her programme, after a short introductory piece, began with a performance of TP Telemann’s Fantasy No 1 in B Flat Minor. She played on a baroque violin, with a baroque bow with gut strings, and she explained that these instruments are so different to the modern violin and appear to this reviewer far more difficult to play. She introduced each piece in such a comprehensive and engaging way that we built up over the concert a clear understanding of baroque music and its development.

She then played Passacaglia in G Minor by H Biber, whose music had a huge influence on later composers such as J S Bach. It was Biber who made popular the concept of the solo violin piece.

Julia Bishop naturally then played a piece by Bach, Allegro Assai from Sonata No 3 in C, to illustrate the link with Biber. The definition of Allegro Assai means “very fast” and Julia certainly took the point with her interpretation. She produced a thrilling richness of sound at the climatic points and maintained an expressive and virtuosic interpretation throughout. The audience was delighted and responded with enthusiastic applause.

After the interval, her programme included two pieces by Telemann and Bach’s Partita No 2. Here she highlighted the charm, grace and elegance of Bach’s music, ranging from the contemplative and melancholy to the exuberance of the dance in the Finale which was another masterful and impressive performance.

Thanking Julia, who is recognised as one of the leading Baroque violinists of her generation, for a wonderful evening, Chris Hough, Chairman of CMS, thanked her for her sublime playing and giving the audience a truly fascinating lecture/recital.

Chris Linford

Read a profile of Julia.

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