MICHAEL DRAKE King of Hearts, Norwich


> King of Hearts, Norwich

I went to hear the Minerva ensemble playing as part of a week-long series.

This baroque quintet sounds as if it might give a taste of the Greek gods, but in fact its programme was from 17th century Italy – with a bit of Spain for good measure.

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And it is this latter, with no detriment to the rest of the ensemble, which took centre spot in yesterday's lunchtime offering.

A successor to the younger Scarlatti, Antonio Soller wrote many harpsichord sonatas but it was his Fandango that gave soloist David Wright the opportunity really to get down to business with a brilliant virtuosic display of rhythms and astonishing technique – and that not only for the many passages requiring crossed hands.

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Little is known of Giulio Mussi but the ensemble of violin, cello and harp as well as harpsichord moved easily from the opening melancholy with echoing recorder to fast, joyful interludes.

A more passionate interpretation came in the Venetian Castello's Fourth Quartet after a gentle opening love song, and it was particularly notable for subtle sounds, highly decorated recorder sections and its harmonically inventive final passage.

Vivaldi's version of a Sonata Folia set out eight-bar variations of great contrast, again matching the recorder's decorative passages with great flexibility to bring to a close a delightfully presented hour.

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