Benedetti’s Baroque yields an electrifying emotional narrative

Nicola Benedetti: Baroque

Nicola Benedetti: Baroque

The Strad Issue: October 2021

Description: Benedetti’s Baroque yields an electrifying emotional narrative

Musicians: Benedetti Baroque Orchestra/Nicola Benedetti (violin)

Works: Geminiani: Concerto Grosso after Corelli no.12 in D minor ‘La Folia’. Vivaldi: Violin concertos: in D major RV211, in E flat major RV257, in B minor RV386, in B flat major RV583

Catalogue number: DECCA 485 1891

Nicola Benedetti’s first album on period instruments, supported by a crack band of Baroque freelancers, is bracingly alive and invigorating. In a frank and revealing booklet note, she hardly touches on the scholastic side of historically informed performance but focuses instead on the expressive freedoms that working with an authentic set-up can bring. She describes performing Geminiani’s ‘La Folia’ Concerto Grosso as embracing ‘friendship, war, love and tryst’, and the finale of Vivaldi’s B minor Concerto RV386 as ‘a love dispute gone wrong’. Clearly, for Benedetti this glorious music possesses a powerful emotional narrative, and it is this important facet that is brought thrillingly to life in these boldly engineered yet arrestingly detailed performances.

The aforementioned Geminiani opens like a processional – one can almost sense the dancers assembling – and then the fireworks start as the various guests, like characters from the commedia dell’arte, announce themselves with style, flair and (where appropriate) gusto. And so, to the three complete Vivaldi concertos – RV211, 257 and 386 – alongside the central Andante of RV583. Here, HIP, tick-list purists might take exception to Benedetti occasionally shaping and articulating phrases on her 1717 ‘Gariel’ Stradivari in a manner more redolent of an ‘informed’ modern set-up. Yet so beguiling and captivating are the results, delivered with irresistible panache, that I can’t imagine most listeners even noticing.