Friday, May 22, 2015

London Festival of Baroque Music concert

22 May 2015

In 2014, after 30 years of continuous support, Lufthansa withdrew its sponsorship from the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music. After a frantic 12 months of fundraising the Festival's Artistic Director, Lindsay Kemp, and his team have succeeded in presenting the first-ever London Festival of Baroque Music. On Sunday we were at St John's Smith Square in London to see the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi present a programme of music by Vivaldi. In early 18th century Venice the Pieta was a foundling hospital which took in infants abandoned by their parents and deposited anonymously in a special niche in its wall. The children were fostered by local families and received a good education and vocational training. Nearly all the boys left aged 18 to take up occupations in the wider world but most of the female residents remained for their whole lives in the hospital. The girls were trained in handicrafts and music. When Vivaldi, who was a member of the hospital staff, wrote music for the Pieta choir his four-part harmonies were sung entirely by female singers with women unusually taking the tenor and bass parts. The Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi aims to recreate this unfamiliar choral sound. It was strange to hear Vivaldi's 'Gloria' – one of his best known choral works – sung by the all-female choir. While the musical notes were the same, the timbre of the low female voices contributed to a very different choral sound. The choir were ably accompanied by the period instruments of the excellent Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, led  by the charismatic violinist, Kati Debretzeni. Her performance of Vivaldi's 'Concerto in D major' at the end of the first half of the concert was fantastic – the delicate, playful cadenza at the end of the final movement had a packed audience collectively holding its breath – a magical moment. The whole concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and you can listen to it for the next 25 days at:

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