Saturday, 27 September 2014

In principio

(Bach and Vivaldi: an inaugural concert by St James Baroque Soloists, St James the Greater, Leicester).

There is surely some excitement to be had in any attending the first of anything. Last night the St James Baroque Soloists gave their inaugural concert. An assemblage of eighteen young professional soloists, accompanied by the Musical and Amicable Society’s violins (four); violas (two); cellos (two); bass, oboe (two) and organ – of the more portable variety. So something between chamber and orchestra. A nice size for the space, which has remarkably good acoustics. St James the Greater does quite a good job, I would suggest of advertising its concerts. And whilst it fills for the Sixteen, sadly it did not for this. Regrettably the programme was reticent about the group or the individuals. I would have thought these bright young things would like to advertise their wares. 

Perhaps I just imagine that there is a slight whiff of snobbery about Vivaldi: you listen to that when you are interminably on hold to the gas board. It has been much reduced of late years, and concerts like this will do no harm. It seemed like the Bach might have been included to prove the seriousness of the programme on offer. 

The programme opened with Bach’s ‘Komm Jesu, komm’, but the rest of the evening was Vivaldi’s. ‘Versicle and Response’ and ‘Beatus vir’ before the interval; after the interval the Musical and Amicable society played his ‘Concerto for Cello and Strings in A Minor. The stand-out piece, for me, followed this, with ‘Stabat Mater’ sung sublimely. ‘The Magnificat’ drew the evening successfully to a close. A modest audience showed exactly as much enthusiasm as they dared in an ecclesiastical building: one would like perhaps to shout bravo, but somehow it seems like it would be a bit off – unlike the music. Generally the male voices were stronger I would suggest, but the best voice was female – a lady in a pale blue dress. But I can’t tell any more than that, as it seems a secret and they don’t have a website. Perhaps they are just too busy concentrating on music-making. Great things may well come. 

Matthew Haynes, apparently the music director of the church, conducted: the quasi-buffoonery of being seen to jovially start applause &c didn’t add to the evening in my view. A young group need to learn what to do with themselves – where to look and what to do with their hands - when they aren’t singing. Even if the performance lacked the sheer emotion which this kind of music can deliver, it was technically, really very good. 
Overall: watch this space.

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