Review: ★★★★★ The Herald Scotland/ Academy of Ancient Music/ Vivaldi & Telemann

The Herald Scotland, Academy of Ancient Music, Queens Hall Edinburgh 

Keith Bruce

Queen’s Hall

the most exquisite playing I have heard from her.’

WHEN violinist Nicola Benedetti joined the RSNO for its dates in Florida last year, it was straight from a US tour with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, and a transition for the soloist that you might liken to a tennis player switching between grass and hard court tournaments. While other parts of the world have heard Scotland’s best known classical musician playing in partnership with a baroque ensemble, it is something she seems to have done less of at home and while it would be incorrect to describe her partnership with conductor and harpsichordist Richard Egarr and the Academy of Ancient Music as a revelation, it certainly produced some of the most exquisite playing I have heard from her.

From the first movement cadenza in Vivaldi’s “Grosso mogul” Concerto in D Major, which opened the recital, it was apparent that this partnership was something very special. Benedetti always appears happy when she is performing, but it was immediately apparent that enthusiasm was shared by the smiles across the platform, continued as she navigated the long solo passages of the slow movement.

The works chosen helped the mood of the occasion as well. Vivaldi alternated with Georg Philipp Telemann, his Concerto “The Frogs” playing with croaking dissonance in a musical gag that spans three centuries in an instant. Even more pictorial was his Alster Ouverture-Suite, with its parody of a band of village musicians and lovely lullaby in the name of Pan.

His Concerto for Four Violins is exactly, and quite briefly, that, on which Benedetti was joined by AAM leader Bojan Cicic and seconds Madeleine Easton and Rebecca Livermore. Egarr produced lovely tonal range from the period keyboard on Vivaldi’s sole harpsichord concerto, and the concluding Vivaldi work, like the larger Telemann piece, added winds and horns to the strings and continuo line-up. Cellist Joseph Crouch was on superb form in the latter role, and the staccato articulation of the players on the natural horns was also absolutely top drawer.