La Serenissima: The Godfather at St George's Review
Posted on: 2018-11-22
This is musicianship of the highest calibre and La Serenissima is a serious contender for the most artistically formidable exemplars and passionate interpreters of Baroque music touring and recording today.
You've got to hand it to those excellent musicians of La Serenissima. On a cold, wet Wednesday evening, they provided a much-needed musical tonic to the inclement weather, bringing a ray of joyous sonic sunshine inside for a concert that was jam-packed (even if a little short) of delicious Baroque surprises.
With a programme that spanned a few familiar compositions with several lesser known and performed pieces (here linked by composers whose works, lives and influences were intertwined), the ensemble kicked off with a suitably barnstorming curtain-raiser in the form of Telemann's Concerto for 3 trumpets in D; all noble fanfares and supreme magisterial zest. Great stuff.
Pisendel's single concerto movements for oboes and violin respectively were gallant, bold single-handers that exemplified the composer's more unusual adoption of the one-act musical structure; while Bach's Concerto in D was everything you'd expect from the grandaddy of the genre - harmonically rich, luscious, evocative and transcendently epic.
Interpretation of The Red Priest's (or Vivaldi as you more commonly know him) Concerto for Strings in A was adroitly handled and crammed with the composer's familiar, smile-inducing ostinatos, chord progressions and dexterous, sometimes almost minimalistic lyricism. Fasch's mighty Concerto in D brought proceedings to a thunderous, triumphant close. The audience - full of wolf whistles, cheers and feverish foot-stomping - went wild; and rightly so.
I've seen La Serenissima several times before and, like a good cheese or fine wine, they just get better with age. The musicians are superb, the performances tight and controlled, their passion palpable, the interpretations crackling with energy and life, their understanding of the compositions impeccable. Indubitably evident too is the fact you just KNOW they love playing these pieces, signified by many and frequent a beaming, smiling face as they played their hearts out.
And, as usual, lead violinist and director Adrian Chandler was again on top form, peppering the pieces with illuminating insight and info in his typically erudite, charming fashion. He let rip with a few breathtakingly giddying virtuosic passages too.
A couple of minor quibbles though. Firstly, for an ensemble of La Serenissima's magnitude and talent, St George's was about half full and that, comrades and friends, is an absolute travesty; this is a group who should be on the lips of every discerning classical music lover in the land and packing out venues. Secondly, as always, the concert was far too short; for a gig that started at 7.30pm and with a 20 minute interval, we were out the door and in the car heading home by 9.20pm. Come on, Chandler and chums; next time give us an encore or two.
That said, this is still musicianship of the highest calibre and La Serenissima is a serious contender for the most artistically formidable exemplars and passionate interpreters of Baroque music touring and recording today.
Jamie is a writer, blogger, journalist, critic, film fan, soundtrack nerd and all-round Bristolian good egg. He loves the music of Philip Glass, the art of Salvador Dali, the writings of Charles Bukowksi and Hunter S Thompson, the irreverence of Harry Hill, and the timeless, straw-chomping exuberance of The Wurzels. You can sometimes find him railing against a surging tide of passing cyclists, or gorging himself senseless on the Oriental delights of a Cosmos all-you-can-eat buffet.