Australia is turning into Baroque-era Naples: only for several nights, though, and only in select recital halls in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. These venues are hosting a concert tour for Riccardo Minasi, one of Europe’s finest baroque violinists, and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra.
The concerts, a feast for violin and baroque connoisseurs, feature the long-forgotten repertoire of 17th and 18th-century baroque Naples. As Paul Dyer (the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s founder and artistic director) noted at the start of the Sydney concert, many of the works have never been previously heard in Australia. Indeed, seven of the gems at the heart of the program have only recently been discovered.
For two hours, Minasi and the orchestra showcased the rich Neapolitan repertoire and transported the audience back in time to Italy’s cultural hub, which buzzed with travellers from all over Europe at the time. One could hear the folk dances of Sicily and the minuets of France; the poise of Austria; the influence Spain, whose viceroys ruled Naples at the time; and a touch of the sacred.
Minasi’s virtuoso performance on his 330-year old Amati violin was a feast for the ears and eyes. His warmth and humour, when engaging with the audience, was equally matched by that of Paul Dyer and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. As always, the ABO generated a heartfelt rapport with its listeners. It was more than evident that this fine ensemble’s members take great joy in playing with each other and sharing their refined musical talents.
Some of the highlights from the concert included Manna’s Sinfonia in E flat major. Here, the ABO was at its finest; the balance between harpsichord, strings and woodwind was magnificent and the technical accuracy of the oboes incredible. Unfortunately, the horns seemed to have difficulties with the some of the ornamentation, due to the valveless baroque instruments in use.
Other highlights included Florenza’s Sinfonia for three violins and Leo’s Concerto for four violins, displaying the skilful playing of Minasi and ABO’s Shaun Lee-Chen, Matt Bruce and Ben Dollman. The harmonies were stunning in both works, and the phrasing poignant. Minasi and the ABO made the silent pauses between each phrase so breathtaking that the audience literally ‘breathed’ with the orchestra.
All in all, it was an inspiring evening for all music lovers. Minasi and the ABO are to be thanked for bringing these Neapolitan jewels to life again.
The concert tour continues in Sydney on Wednesday, November 4, and Friday, November 6, at 7pm. Melbourne concerts will take place on Saturday November 7 (7pm) and Sunday November 8 (5pm).