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Brighton Year-Round 2019

Florisma Baroque Recital

Florisma Baroque - Penelope Appleyard, Marta Lopez Fernandez and Michelle Holloway

Genre: Live Music, Music

Venue: All Saints, Hove

Festival: ,

Low Down

Florisma Baroque with soprano Penelope Appleyard, Marta Lopez Fernandez on harpsichord and Michelle Holloway on recorder gave a recital of Handel, Purcell, Croft, Fischer J. S Bach and Vivaldi.


Florisma Baroque are an exciting new goup with acclaimed CDs to their credit, and praise fron such baroque vocalist as Catherien Bott and others, with many five-star reviews. It’s understandable.


Florisma Baroque with soprano Penelope Appleyard, Marta Lopez Fernandez on harpsichord and Michelle Holloway on recorder gave a recital of Handel, Purcell, Croft, Fischer J. S Bach and Vivaldi.


The Croft though brings a tale, since it was substituted when the cellist Hetti Price sadly broke her wrist and couldn’t supply her level of resonant continuo playing tat underpins much repertoire. Given this, the accomplishment was astonishing Holloway had to sue one recorder in A minor for the croft, her normal go-to and thus utilize another (wetness in period instruments is a bugbear) one in D for the Bach Partita, which made it far trickier: there’s enharmonics to suggest a bass continuo line and then over and above enharmonics this recorder gives the Bach that aren’t looked for. Just one example of this ensemble’s level of musicianship and flexibility. Though the 1970s harpsichord was sourced fro York university and is now based here, its metal strings giving some stability, the thin to note is how all instruments are subject to warping in bad weather and more than contemporary instruments, need retuning – or abandoning to dry out, as with the recorders.


Appleyard who studied at Chichester is the overarching star but both other players enjoyed a fine solo spot. Appleyard started with the breathtaking stratosphere of ‘Eternal source of light divine’ from Handel’s 1713 Ode on the Birthday of Queen Anne, and you can see why Appleyard’s already acclaimed. Her pure lyric soprano range is phenomenal, but also intensely pure wth a flexibility in the upper range and character lower down too. This rapt music nails the group’s Handelian credentials and Handel indeed formed the backbeat to this recital.


Appleyard also fronted Music for a while with just Fernandez’ harpsichord. ‘Music for a while’ we take for granted but shouldn’t. More mid-baroque it still reaches towards that florid late-baroque style Handel gave Britain. You can see how Handel learned from Purcell too – there was no-one writing remotely like Purcell in the later years of the 17th century. Intense expressivity with repeated words felicitously placed is jut one hallmark.


‘Tune the soft melodious lute’ from Handel’s Jeptha is more upbeat from a downbeat final oratorio, and again full of melismas and vocal heroics that don’t draw attention to themselves.


With Price absent the anonymous ‘Mad Maudlin’ gave way to William Croft (1678-1727) a younger contemporary of Purcell (born in Vivaldi’s year) whose Recorder suite in G is as well-turned as his harpsichord suites. Holloway really knows how t keep fine if not nailingly memorable melodies fresh, and remind us the Neopolitan school of flute concerts and sonatas wasn’t the only one. Its four movements are mellifluous and as fine as anything else being written in that genre, inspired no doubt by Handel’s semi-pirated Op 1.


J C F Fischer (1656-1750) is now known for more than his Nine Muses Suites from 1738, and this stand-alone Passacaglia in Fernandez’ hands shows why he’s increasingly revered as one of the most imaginative German composers of his time, someone marrying French and Italian modes – French fantasy, Italian elements of song and German structure – into a memorable whole. Fernandez is compelling here.


J S Bach’s ‘Aus Liebe’ from his St Matthew passion is something you appreciate out of context so subtle, Italianate and hushed it seems in Appleyard’s rendition. Appleyard was as fine in tow of Handel’s Nine German Arias. ’Das zitternde Glanzen’ an the more intimate ‘Mine Seele’ a meditation clearly on one’s soul and a more pared down less overt hymn.


In between that fiendish Partita in C minor by Bach, with Holloway noting it’s an early almsot Gothic-sounding piece that frankly sounds extraordinary: it owns the odd experimental jagged and curious harmonic word of early Bach. Holloway knows how to shape this even on the recalcitrant D recorder whislt her other dried out.


Finally an Italian balst proper. As Appleyard says, another reflection on cruel lovers, ‘Allombra Di Sospetto’ is a fine beautifully-spun cantata and whirls by in a characterisation that can hardly be subtle but which Appleyard renders pungent and slyly amusing. The three soloists sounded like a full ensemble.


What a remarkable ensemble, five star already and even without their cellist, a stunning Brighton and Hove debut.