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Review for ‘Concerto Mania’ in The Tabernacle, Machynlleth, Saturday 26th May 2007

Thank you to all the musicians who provided such a wonderful evening of entertainment at the Tabernacl, Machynlleth, on Saturday evening.

The music was played with great sensitivity, vitality and a sense of fun, just as it should be. It was good to have the little verbal introductions to each of the pieces, too, setting them into their historical context. I shall never forget it.

Hilary Peters
Assistant Archivist
National Library of Wales

Review for Thursday July 6 2006, South Wales Argus:
Welsh Baroque Orchestra at the Chepstow Festival


Weather conditions are more than an idle talking-point for an orchestra playing
in the 18th-century style.

Humidity at Chepstow's Drill Hall created familiar problems for the WBO's
gut-stringed instruments played without vibrato.

But ebullient harpsichordist Andrew Wilson-Dickson would regard this as part of
the music's authenticity. And rightly so - the difficulties were the same for
musicians 300 years ago.

What is striking about his orchestra is its concern for bold period colour,
which goes right down the line to take in a dynamic delivery in which everyone
can be clearly heard.

This was no more evident than in Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, in which violinist
Nicolette Moonen was first among equals, the best way of describing how the
soloist keeps emerging from an energised ensemble, and original prefatory
sonnets were read in Italian and English by Marie Gastinel-Jones.

It was all part of a weather-related programme, not the least meterological
item being the premiere of a contemporary concerto grosso by Wilson-Dickson
himself, Greenhouse Effect, in which three mimetic soloists (violinist Marc
Elton, flautist Claire Heaney and bassoonist Nathaniel Harrison) eventually
succumb to musical climate change.

The composer feels as strongly about these issues as he does about making
Baroque music a vivid end in itself and not a series of museum pieces that come
with complications.

Heaney's dancing flute lines in Vivaldi's La Tempesta di Mare and Harrison's
jolly bassoon in the La Notte concerto provided him with grist for the mill,
even though they were written in the Italian's best self-plagiarising manner.

Nigel Jarrett

Gwent Bach Society with WBO performing Bach's B minor Mass
April 10th 2006, South Wales Argus:
St Mary's Church, Abergavenny

Despite the gushing verdicts of posterity, Bach's Mass in B Minor can be a work
that ebbs and flows instead of flooding us with consistently high emotion and
grandeur.

This is partly because it is a patchwork of music written at different times
and for different purposes, though the amount of integration achieved is a
compositional triumph.

Amateur choirs - meaning choirs not composed of full-time professional
choristers - sometimes expose this weakness, such as it is, where their salaried
counterparts disguise it by emphasising the strengths elsewhere.

So full marks to Gwent Bach Society and its conductor Roger Langford for
returning time and again to the demands of the score, in which the choir takes
the giant steps and shoulders the heaviest burden.

One is thinking particularly of the exultant Hosanna in Excelsis, over a dozen
outings after the first groundswell of the Kyrie; the contrapuntal complexities
of the Confiteor, leading to the gravity of Et Expecto Resurrectionem (And I
look for the Resurrection of the Dead); and the final Dona Nobis Pacem, a
heartfelt, processional plea for peace by a choir that has run the emotional
gamut.

Fielding twice as many choristers as period-music purists now deem adequate but
accompanied by the excellent Welsh Baroque Orchestra (with transverse flute and
valveless brass instruments prominent), the Society made out a case for strength
in numbers.

This performance dispensed with a counter-tenor, allowing youngsters Kathryn
Jenkin, Rosie Aldridge, Ben Johnson and George Humphreys to provide agreeable,
if sometimes low-key, contributions.

Nigel Jarrett

South Wales Argus: Wednesday April 7.
Handel's Messiah
Blackwood Miners' Institute

HANDEL's evergreen oratorio was written when demand for the operas he had
so successfully penned declined to nought. It is this inter-regnum between
secular and sacred that early-music specialist Andrew Wilson-Dickson seized
upon for an extraordinary performance of the work with his excellent Welsh
Baroque Orchestra and the prizewinning choir Cordydd.

His argument, reasonable enough, is that apart from being written by a man
of the theatre, Messiah has been deprived over the years of its
theatricality. So to the theatre he returned it, with the audience
encouraged to respond from beyond the 'footlights'. Compared with the old
tendency to use the work as a sing-song for all and sundry, emphasis on the
straitlaced devotional aspect of Messiah seems neither here nor there. The
danger is that introducing too strong a whiff of greasepaint could
have debased
the work's genuine sentiment. But soloists Iona Jones, Buddug Verona James,
Aled Hall and Stephen Hamnett laid the histrionic emphasis in exactly those
places where it is so urgently needed, with movement, gesture and operatic
declamation. It was powerful stuff.

Behind them, the 40-strong young Cordydd sang the great choruses so
crisply and with such inner strength and purpose that one almost forgot that
its sound hovers nicely between youth and adult. Both soloists and choir
sang some of the work in English, some in Welsh, almost lapsing into one or
the other and thereby consolidating the feeling of spontaneity.

Mr Wilson-Dickson evidently thinks about this music and makes us do the
same. Having considered, the Blackwood audience stood and applauded.

Nigel Jarrett

Handel's Messiah, 28th March,
St Catherine's Church, Pontypridd

We were thrilled to have the Welsh Baroque Orchestra and Cordydd here at St
Catherine's for 'Messiah' on Passion Sunday. St Catherine's was opened 135
years ago with a performance of Messiah, but I seriously doubt that event
could have been better than the one we experienced this Easter. The quality
and enthusiasm of the orchestra, and the purity of all those youthful
voices, plus such a wonderful team of soloists made for a near perfect
evening... People regard Pontypridd as being something of a cultural desert,
but an audience of around 200 proved that the right piece played superbly
will always attract a crowd, even here! (Rev Marcus Green, St Catherine's
Church, Pontypridd)

Members of Consort de Danse Baroque take their bow at the end of the Welsh Baroque Orchestra's Valentine Evening in the Big Space, Cardiff Old Library, February 14th.

Welsh Baroque Orchestra - Valentine's Concert