Review: Solent Baroque ensemble at Lunchtime Live! at Portsmouth Cathedral

At their recent Lunchtime Live! recital at Portsmouth Cathedral, Solent Baroque had unforeseen problems with their harpsichord which was a shame for those in search of ‘authenticity but the show must go on and I can’t say it caused any grief having piano continuo instead.

Handel’s Sonata in F major, HWV 389 was alternatively cool streams flowing through Palladian gardens and merry dances. The main line is shared about between recorder, violin, cello and continuo and made me think if trad jazz with Veronica Price’s violin as Humph’s trumpet, Jen Flatman’s recorder as Wally Fawkes flying off elsewhere but it’s a loose comparison.

Karen Kingsley was involved throughout as the pieces used different combinations of instruments. Perhaps Emma Sharrock might do some of a Cello Suite at halfway one day to give her a rest but she didn’t seem to mind as was rewarded with a Bach solo in the Allegro from the Italian Concerto which rattled along with its own energy, most notably with extended trills in the right hand while the left dashed around the basement. Bach is surely in a league of his own and I’ve got to save any further eulogies about him for the forthcoming Christmas Oratorio but it was great to see Karen do this after her very different Aubade played with the Grammar School students recently.

Blavet (1700-1768) was a new name for me, Jen’s recorder like organ pipes in the top range of his Menuet and Variation while somehow providing its own augmentation as, for example, the violin does in a Bach Partita. Loeillet was, too. I’m glad I checked on him because he wasn’t part of the huge French contingent from Lully to Rameau but Flemish and ‘of London’. For his Trio Sonata no. 2 in F major, Jen brought out the tenor recorder with its softer, woodier sound. The cello found its way to greater prominence in the Allegro and, as officially my favourite instrument, I was grateful and think we should have more of it both in Solent Baroque and everywhere else. Veronica’s violin shone brightly in the Allegro.

More Bach in the Sinfonia from Cantata no. 156 was violin and piano, effortlessly moving with Veronica achieving a sonorous tone. I don’t know if it’s because it’s Bach that it makes the instrument sound even better. I’m sure actors sound better doing Shakespeare than they do in Harold Pinter.

Telemann’s reputation might have been greater than Bach’s in their day which was probably fine by him. One of the busiest composers in history, one would think, from his output. It’s possible he was the main ‘ideas man’ of what was a prolific hit factory. The Largo of the Trio Sonata had violin and recorder in conversation, weaving in and out of each other’s lines. The cello led off and bossed the Vivace and, for all one could tell, might have been bickering with the violin. I’d not seen Affetuoso as a marking before and was told it was a Telemann thing. It’s not ‘affected’ as one with insufficient Italian might guess. That would give the violin licence to milk it like Andre Rieu. It’s tender, or passionate, a bit more restrained, and that’s what Veronica did. In the Allegro, recorder and violin were involved in a sprint to the line which it looked like Jen might be winning with a few more notes to play but as is to be expected in such a harmonious thing, they finished together.

Solent Baroque are a pleasure, art for art’s sake and doing it with an obvious love of it which one would like to think is the best if not the only reason. Get there if you can if they play anywhere near you.

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