Palladian Ensemble - An Excess of Pleasure - BBC Music Magazine
These four players (recorders, violin, various string bassas and theorbo/guitar) met as students, won two Young Artist's awards and, three years ago, presented their stunning debut recording. Don't be put off by lesser-known composers, all seriously under-represented on disc (Uccellini, Matteis, Marini) among the more familiar are Locke, Blow and Purcell. They are all treated to sparkling playing with the sense of uninhibited joy which only technical mastery and unbridled imagination can generate.
There's a strong folk influence: one of their composers, Geminiani, knew the Irish folk harpist O'Carolan, and they play an air on the traditional bergamasque, and Scots airs set by Geminiani himself with positively folk-like exuberance. Some of the disc though is art music of the highest order, with an exquisite broken-consort dance suite by Locke, a deliciously languid slow air in a sonata by Blow, and Purcell's effortlessly fluent canon, 'Two in one upon a ground'. Repeated ('ground') basses serve to unify the whole programme, each variation capping the virtuosity of the last. The effect, from such minimal resource, is breathtaking.