Palladian Ensemble - An Excess of Pleasure - Fanfare
The four musicians that formed the original Palladian Ensemble in 1991-Pamela Thorby, recorders; Rachel Podger, violin; Joanna Levine, gamba, cello, violone; and William Carter, theorbo and guitar-all met while studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. They won awards starting that year, and released their first album, An Excess of Pleasure, in 1993. It proved a success, though the kind of international exposure and following such groups understandably seek eluded them until 1996, when they toured as part of the European Concert Hall Organization's Rising Stars series. Since then three of the ensemble's original membership have departed, but others moved into their place.
Hearing the disc with fresh ears is to perceive what would ultimately make their concerts so popular. Although Thorby and Podger are featured throughout, sometimes together, sometimes separately, the others get their occasional chance to shine-Levine in Simpson's Divisions on John Come Kiss Me Now, Carter in the anonymous Ciaconna. In all instances, these four musicians play with the kind of precision and phrasing that comes from many hours spent together; but also with an energy and obvious enjoyment that sometimes are harder to find in Baroque music-as though High Art mustn't kick up its heels.
The presence of so much Italian material helps, as it dances without fail, and shamelessly shows off the technical expertise of its performers. The 23 selections heard here are a mix of the extremely well known, such as Uccellini's Aria V sopra La Bergamasca, with the scarcely heard, among them three of Geminiani's settings of Scottish songs (with his own divisions) from his A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick. (Geminiani spent most of his professional life teaching, performing, composing, and writing in London, so the Scottish link was a sound marketing move.) The breadth of expression encompasses Matteis's vivacious Ground after the Scottish Humor and a chaconne from Purcell's Dioclesian, one of those dolorous pieces of which he was such a master.
In excellent sound, it's great to have this back in the catalogue.