Scottish Ensemble/Cohen

Glasgow Art Club/Renfield St Stephens

Keith Bruce

four stars

HOWEVER novel it may seem to offer audiences a concert that takes place in two venues, and a choice from which one to begin the evening, regular attenders at the chamber music events offered by the many music clubs and societies across Scotland will have found nothing so unusual in any of the places that the Scottish Ensemble played last week. My guess is that, for all the grandeur of St Giles and the Signet Library in Edinburgh, the Glasgow combination of the Bath Street picture gallery and the community church 100 yards down the road (technically actually re-named St Andrew’s West earlier this year, when it was merged with the congregation of Anderson Kelvingrove) best encapsulated what the exercise was all about.

This was the Scottish Ensemble going back to its routes, not specifically in locations, but more to recitals entirely of Baroque music, with Jonathan Cohen, founder of early music group Arcangelo, directing from the harpsichord. That is, of course, the first name of Corelli, who supplied one of four Concerto Grosso in the programme, and a Violin Sonata for which Ensemble leader Jonathan Morton was crucially partnered by cellist Alison Laurance alongside Cohen’s keyboard, and which ended with a very lively dance.

The other three ensemble pieces ranged from the familiarity of Antonio Vivaldi, with which the evening began if you chose to start at the Art Club, to the rather less well-known Pietro Locatelli. His composition in the Art Club programme revealed a very distinctive voice, in a work full of contrasts and shifts in pulse, pitch and pace, while his slightly earlier work at the conclusion of the church sequence was altogether more lyrical, with lovely work from the violas of Jane Atkins and Andrew Berridge. Morton’s solo of one of Heinrich Biber’s Rosary Sonatas, The Agony in the Garden, completed the selection. An exercise that successfully made the point about the stylistic variation in the music of the period, as well as the audible variation in performance style and venue acoustic.