Reviewer: William Quinn
The Dunedin Consort were in upbeat form this November 16th, with a programme devoted entirely to the work of Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741). Drawing mainly from German violinist Johann Georg Pisendel’s archive of the maestro’s work, the selected works called for a compact string ensemble, plus Harpsichord, under Dunedin Guest Director, and Baroque violin specialist Bojan Čičić.
Opening with a bright and toe-tapping rendition of Sinfonia à 4 in C major, RV 192a, the ensemble set the merry, major key tone which would pervade the evening’s offerings. The power of the Harpischord to transport a listener centuries back in time never ceases to amaze, and with David Gerrard‘s rhythmic, punchy, but measured hands on the keys, the Dunedin time machine was in fine fettle.
Čičić produced some regal playing to crest the melodic waves of the following Concerto for violin and strings in C major, RV 195, before stamping his period expertise credentials upon the night through a pacey, and playful performance of the Concerto for violin in A major, RV 341.
Post-intermission, the ensemble carrier right on as they began, the opening Sinfonia à 4 in C major, RV 192a opening with the brisk adventure of the Allegro molto leading into a stately Andante, and finishing with a Summery jaunt through the closing Allegro. Here as in each number, the Consort in attendance proved themselves a tight, and well-oiled Baroque machine. The engine room, under regal Double Bass Carina Cosgrave, and the almost swinging Cello of Andrew Skidmore, powers matters along, whilst the pulsing strings, most notably the barely contained energy of Second Violin Huw Daniel, soar above.
The quasi-duels erupting later in the programme between Čičić and Daniel also produced audible laughter in the Queen’s Hall, proving that not all humour within classical music has retreated into the theory books.
The closing Concerto for violin in A major ‘per li Coglioni’, RV 340 closed the programme as it began, running the gauntlet of uplifting, shifting rhythm and showcasing the lead violinist’s excellence with his instrument. This exploration of the lesser-known works of Vivaldi was certainly a cheerful evening of virtuoso playing. Further, the infectious passion Čičić feels for the composer and subject matter does much to offset the selected pieces’ undiluted happiness.
That said, without the Guest Director’s commentary and enthusiasm, a recording of the Čičić directs Vivaldi might feel a little one note, emotionally speaking. However, that’s a matter for the studio, and publishing executives. So far as a live evocation of a musical world before record presses were a twinkling in an inventor’s eye, The Dunedin Consort continue to prove themselves masters of their craft.