London Concertante’s latest visit to Edinburgh is a sell out, and deservedly so. The programme is a crowd-pleaser, headlined by some staples from Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi. However, the inclusion of some pieces from the 20th century Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla, himself heavily influenced by the baroque greats, elevates this concert to a completely different and more interesting level.
The playing throughout is sublime and frankly flawless. While the acoustics in the medieval St Giles’ Cathedral may not be the best, the ripple of notes floating throughout the dark cavernous interior creates a magical effect. The evening opens with Mozart’s Divertimento in D, effectively a string quartet with three movements, and this is followed by Elgar’s well-known Serenade for Strings, whose larghetto is played with great sensitivity.
Two Bach concerti follow, before the first half concludes with Oblivion by Piazzolla. This is in complete contrast to the preceding offerings. It’s a testament to the skill of the London Concertante that they are able to change the mood so quickly, with the haunting melodies of a slow tango exemplifying why they are considered one of the very best chamber ensembles in the land. This piece features a delicious violin solo accompanied by a plucked ostinato bass line that moves into a languishing melody, reminiscent of long lazy summer days, Buenos Aires style.
The second half of the concert is a performance of The Four Seasons, but not as you know it, with the first two ‘seasons’ being taken from Piazzolla’s Four Seasons inspired by Vivaldi’s earlier work. There are identifiable nods to Vivaldi throughout, and although the two sets of pieces are very different in themselves, the juxtaposition forces the listener to compare and contrast the modern work with its older counterpart.
Autumn and Winter are taken from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with Ben Norris playing the violin solo. Norris, back on his Scottish home turf, is utterly superb. Every demisemiquaver is spot on, as the music swoops and soars. Kennedy is probably the best known exponent of this piece, yet his interpretation tends to be quite free, whereas Norris’ playing is more disciplined and potentially more appropriate. It’s understandable why this is one of the best known of classical pieces, and the Concertante certainly do Vivaldi justice.
An encore of Csárdás by Vittorio Monti is a fitting way to end this fantastic concert, and must surely guarantee a good reception for their return North later this Autumn