Review: The Consort of Twelve, St John's Chapel, Chichester

REVIEW BY Liz Sagues

Monday, 27th September 2021, 3:14 pm
Consort of Twelve

What a joyous return of live baroque music to one of Chichester's most sympathetic concert locations! On Sunday (September 19), in St John's Chapel, The Consort of Twelve presented a selection of short pieces by Antonio Vivaldi and J.S. Bach, classics of the early 18th century played on period instruments with verve and in fine style.

To meet concerns over Covid-19 risk and to allow for social distancing in the chapel, the hour-long programme was played without an interval and repeated after a two-hour break. Baroque music lovers certainly appreciated the chance to hear the consort again in the chapel for the first time since December 2019, with a total audience for the day's two concerts of 110.

Leader Julia Bishop not only instilled a sense of neatly-controlled enthusiasm and precision in the group of players, but was also a virtuosic soloist. This was especially true in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No 4, where her pure-toned violin notes wove intricately around the evocative recorder playing of fellow-soloists Sophie Middleditch and William Summers.

Bishop's irrepressible vivacity enhanced the rest of the programme as well, from the opening rustic concerto by Vivaldi, through his concerto for two violins and cello (fine performances also from Sara Deborah Timossi and Lynden Cranham) and two other Bach delights, the Air from Suite No 3 and the concerto for oboe and violin in C minor.

That final piece, with Gail Hennessy's woodwind elegantly partnering Bishop's strings, was an intriguing one – long known but with no contemporary score in existence. Instead, musicologists have restored it from a later concerto, designed for two harpsichords but considered to be based on the original oboe/violin work. It proved a triumphant climax to a memorable concert.

The Consort of Twelve will return to St John's Chapel in May next year, with a concert devoted to two composer-priests, Vivaldi and Bonporti.

Liz Sagues