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Top 20 Classical Albums of 2017: ‘With great style and charisma, Peter Whelan and his excellent Ensemble Marsyas reconstructed a typical Society concert in Edinburgh 1742.’
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Ensemble Marsyas - Edinburgh 1742 - Early Music Review


05 January 2018
Early Music Review
D. James Ross

This excellent CD takes advantage of two sets of circumstances nearly three centuries apart: firstly, that in 1742 Edinburgh was a burgeoning centre of the arts and of Baroque music in particular, and, secondly, that nowadays the ‘The Athens of the North’ is enjoying a second golden age of Baroque performance. In a programme designed to celebrate concerts given by the Edinburgh Musical Society in the mid-18th century, Peter Whelan and his ensemble give us five of Francesco Barsanti’s ten op.3 Concerti Grossi along with a set of his charming Scots song settings, together with a march, an aria and a horn concerto by Handel, an arrangement by the composer of two movements from his Water Music. The horn was still a relative orchestral novelty, having been first introduced by Handel in his Water Music some twenty years earlier, and would have been a considerable attraction in Edinburgh. Whelan’s two excellent horn players, Alex Frank-Gemmill and Joseph Walters, also feature prominently in the Barsanti Concerti, which turn out to be works of superlative quality, in which the standard high Baroque pomp is regularly shot through with a poignant melancholy or enlivened by quirky folk rhythms in a style which is both masterly and distinctively individual. The crystal-voiced Emilie Renard, whom I heard recently singing Handel to wonderful effect at the Lammermuir Festival, gives a splendidly dramatic account of “Sta nel’Iscana” from Handel’s Alcina, while violinist Colin Scobie provides infectiously lilting accounts of four of Barsanti’s Old Scots Tunes. This terrific CD, bustling with energy and creativity, gives a vivid impression of Edinburgh in 1742 and at the same time conveys a marvellously upbeat picture of the current state of early music performance in Scotland.
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Related Links

Alec Frank-GemmillAlec Frank-Gemmill
Emilie RenardEmilie Renard
Ensemble MarsyasEnsemble Marsyas
George Frideric HandelGeorge Frideric Handel
Peter WhelanPeter Whelan
Edinburgh 1742: Barsanti & HandelEdinburgh 1742: Barsanti & Handel