IBO - Concerti Bizarri - BBC Music Magazine

A feast of Baroque virtuosity

Monica Huggett directs 'deliciously alert' performances says Paul Riley

Performance: 5 stars

Recording: 5 stars

There's little to frighten the horses in the 'eccentricities' gleefully paraded by this batch of concertos. It brings together a circle of friends and colleagues plus their concerto mentor Vivaldi. Moments of ear-grabbing outlandishness are relatively few and far between given music so eminently personable and effortlessly urbane. What bucks the commonplace, however, is the solo instrumentation that so often takes the road less travelled. Graupner feels the love three times over in a concerto for flute d'amore, oboe d'amore and viola d'amore, while Fasch chooses two oboes da caccia alongside pairs of violas and bassoons - a deep-hued confection Monica Huggett likens to 'the aural equivalent of eating the best chocolate mousse'.

All in all, this is a glorious opportunity for the musicians of the Irish Baroque Orchestra to take centre stage, and they do so with devil-may-care aplomb. It's as if after a day's scrupulous rehearsal they kick off their shoes, let their hair down, and play for the sheer fun of it. The virtuosic razzle-dazzle of Graupner's C major Bassoon Concerto holds no terrors for Peter Whelan whose awe-inspiring dexterity is also put to good use in the Telemann; and Heinichen's conspicuously Italianate G minor Oboe Concerto is eloquently negotiated by Andreas Helm, its pizzicato-accompanied slow movement a model of stylish suavity.

Then again the ensemble's playing, spurred on by Huggett's surefooted direction, is just as impressive. Deliciously alert, spirited, and free from affectation, its clarity is beautifully matched by the recording. No wonder Irish eyes are smiling!    

BBC Music Magazine
01 August 2016