First-class performances of Vivaldi with guitar and viola d’amore from 8-piece Archi d’Amore Zelanda

‘Viva Vivaldi’

Concerto for viola d’amore in D
Concerto for guitar in D
Concerto for viola d’amore and guitar in D minor

Archi d’Amore Zelanda (Donald Maurice, viola d’amore; Jane Curry, guitar; Konstanze Artmann and Rupa Maitra, violins; Sophia Acheson, viola; Emma Goodbehere, cello; Paul Altomari, double bass, Kristin Zuelicke, harpsichord)

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 4 May 2016, 12.15pm

It is not often that so many people are in attendance at the lunchtime concert; St. Andrew’s was very well filled. Nor is it often that we have the same performer at successive concerts: Kristina Zuelicke was last week playing piano for Ingrid Culliford in a flute and piano concert, and this week playing harpsichord.

Donald Maurice gave a verbal introduction, but it was a pity he had not taken the microphone which Marjan van Waardenberg had just used to welcome people to the concert; I could not hear everything he was saying, and I sat relatively close to the front.

However, there was no doubt about hearing what he was playing; the mellifluous sound of his instrument was delightful. The opening allegro was cheerful and very incisive. The instrument is rare nowadays because other instruments have taken over what was its role – surely because with 7 strings (and sympathetic strings, like a sitar) it is tricky to play. Yet it has a very pleasant, mellow tone.

The largo second movement had the strings entering in order from highest to lowest before the soloist joined in. The movement had a wistful, even mournful melody. A delicate movement, it had the soloists accompanied by two violins only for much of the time. The following allegro was bright, rhythmic, and again provided much work for Donald Maurice. Unusually, it had a quiet ending.

The other two concerti were on the same pattern of allegro, largo, allegro. The second featured guitar, although originally written for solo lute; I am familiar with its gentle sound in that setting. For this work there was only one violinist in the accompanying strings. Jane Curry’s guitar sound came out well – but I realised at the beginning of the third item that it was amplified. (No amplification in Vivaldi’s day!) There was a good balance with the five other instruments. Dynamics were observed most tastefully.

The largo was given a very sensitive rendition – studied, languorous and unhurried. There was commendable cohesion between the performers; this was real concerto stuff. Thanks to the fine acoustics at St. Andrew’s and the splendid playing one could have sworn the music was being played by a larger ensemble – simply super.

The concerto with both solo instruments had required Donald Maurice to retune his instrument for the minor key. As expected, due to the minor key, the first movement was rather sombre, though in other respects comparable to the opening of the first concerto on the programme. There was plenty of conversation between the guitar and the viola d’amore. The unanimity of the ensemble was commendable, since they were playing without a conductor.

A lovely, serene largo was set for just two violins plus the soloists. The minor key gave a plaintive sound to the airs and harmonies. The entire ensemble joined in the third movement, which was somewhat sombre, but at the same time full of delight.

As an audience member said to me as we were leaving the church ‘First class’. The forthcoming tour to Poland by three of the ensemble’s members (Donald Maurice, Jane Curry and Emma Goodbehere) should be a great success.


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