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GRAMOPHONE (12/2020)
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Reviewer: Mark Seow

This sequel delivers entirely wonderful playing from Ensemble Marsyas. Much of what Lindsay Kemp found excellent about the first instalment of this selection of music by Francesco Barsanti (A/17) is replicated and multiplied: certainly, the ‘chortling energy’ returns in ecstatic delight. Though the horns are left out of the mix in the final five concerti grossi, David Blackadder’s dynamite trumpet-playing and the sprightly oboes of Alex Bellamy and Hannah McLaughlin (who sometimes seek to outdo Blackadder in trumpet-ness) more than make up for this. Indeed, director Peter Whelan has hit the fixing jackpot and assembled a team of Britain’s finest period players for our delight. The tutti violin-playing is particularly exquisite – neat but never plain – and Elizabeth Kenny’s glistening theorbo is perpetually lovely. Admittedly, the Barsanti concerti grossi fluctuate in compositional quality. Yet Ensemble Marsyas make miracles, speaking through the musically mundane with eloquence and verve.

A most charming moment on the disc is when the pageantry ends for the night and we’re treated to something entirely different by way of four intimate Scots Tunes. It’s as if the listener has happened across an alley in the old city, one that surely wasn’t there in the daytime, and enters a tavern made warm by candlelight and the sounds of fiddling. Violinist Colin Scobie evokes this scene and more with such enviable naturalness that one wouldn’t be surprised if this folkiness was his musicking mother tongue. Scobie’s sound is sweet, and ornaments spiral out with oxygenated ease.

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