Music From The Pleasure Garden

CHRISTOPHER SMITH King of Hearts, Norwich


King of Hearts, Norwich

The Cuckoo, a song by the Norwich composer James Hook, was just right for this recital of music largely connected with the Pleasure Gardens.

They were an attractive feature of social life in the 18th century in the provinces as well as London, with performances that were tuneful and easy on the ear while offering chances to display vocal and instrumental prowess.

So soprano Linda Perillo found her brightest tone, and with her high pitched descant recorder chirping and trilling like a bird giving voice to its delight, Layil Barr added colour and a touch of humour.

She turned to the rather more mellow treble recorder to accompany the singer in a cantata by Johann Pepusch. It was, as the title put it, all about Love's Soft Passion. With short recitatives creating opportunities for a little drama, the two arias painted contrasting passions.

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David Wright, the harpsichordist of the Ensemble Alcina, had his solo spot in a transcription that William Babel made of Handel's own improvisations on a theme from his popular opera Rinaldo. Though a little lengthy, it was an impressive display of keyboard skills.

Timothy Kraemer was able to show his quality and the tone of his 1701 English instrument because the prolific Georg Telemann wrote a more interesting part for the cello than the usual continuo line for the aria Hope is my Consolation.

The performance gave all the more pleasure because of the lively rapport between the musicians. It would though, have been better if the entire programme had been picked with stricter regard to the theme that had been advertised.

Fortunately things came back into focus with Thomas Arne's Under the Greenwood Tree, with piping notes on the agile sopranino recorder.

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