Christmas Baroque from London Concertante

Christmas Baroque from London Concertante

A lovely release from London Concertante here fo Christmas music for orchestra, with repertoire taken from the core of London Concertante's Winter touring season.

The balance of pieces here is wonderful .Yes, tehre's one of Vivaldi\s Four Seasons (unsurprisingly, "Winter), and Christmas Concertos by both Torelli and Corelli, plus the Overtire to Handel's Messiah. But there's also a final jazz surprise from someone we know quite well on Classical Explorer (we'll save that until last!).

We met Torelli's Chrostmas Concerto, Op. 8/6 last year, in fact, on the Naxos disc Per la Notte di Natale. Nice to meet it again in this superbly disciplined performance, which from its quiet, dissonance-enhanced opening becomes  shot through with energy by its finale. But listen to how the first movement seems to emerge slowly, naturally:

The second movement holds some rekarkable moments, with its shard-like chords surely invoking in our minds Vivaldi's own reponse.

It is true that there are performances of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 everywhere, pretty much. It's also true that this one won't dislodge the greats, but it is full of energy, and some terrific harpsichord playing. The harpsichordist is David Gordon: the cadenza in the first movement is mesmerising:

The gallant nature of the central Affetuoso is simply beautiful here, particularly in the exchanges between flute and violin:

The jaunty finale of the Fifth Brandenurg could hardly be in greater contrast to the opening of Corelli's Concerto grosso in G minor, Op. 6/8, his so-called "Christmas Concerto":

There are some lighning reflexes to the fifth movement Allegro of the Corelli before the rustic sounds of the final "Pastorale" close the performance. Great that the recording supports the more open sound of the drone beginning of the "Pastorale":

London Concertante, reproduced with permission

Vivaldi's "Winter" concerto needs no introduction. It is heard here in a fabulous performance by violinist Ben Norris. The performers really foreground the modernity of Vivaldi's icy writing:

Norris is superbly eloquent, too, in the slow movement, adding stylish and appropriate ornamentation to Vivaldi's line. And where would Christmas be without Handel's Messiah? Here we have the Overture in a grand, dignified account:

Finally, Bach meets American dance music in David Gordon's Brandy for 4, which references movements from Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. As Gordon himself says,

The harpsichord's plucked sound is also reminiscent of the guitar strumming found in American country music. Some of Bach's descendants ventures to America, along with wider migration from Germany to the US in the 18th century. Having taken theur music with them, you could argue that American country music has its orgins in Bach.

It's irresistable, anyway. Gordon is joned by the country sounds of a melodica. It's quite the adventure, and a fine way to end this lovely disc:

The disc is available for streaming from all major platforms.