The Cosmo Rodewald Hall at the Martin Harris Centre on the Manchester University campus is an ideal setting for the regular free lunchtime concerts that are such an important part of the city’s classical music scene. Today, the university’s student Baroque orchestra presented a short programme of favourites by Vivaldi and Corelli to a large and appreciative audience, swelled by a large group of primary school children from St Mark’s, Worsley, who behaved impeccably throughout: full marks to them and their teachers.
The orchestra, fifteen or so strong, was led from the violin by Amanda Babington, who stood out from the rest of the band by adopting a glittery top over the standard black outfits worn by everyone. The musicians play, eighteenth century style, standing up – except for the cellos and the harpsichord, of course – and the whole performance was designed to be historically informed, which avoids the tendentious ‘authentic’ label while taking due cognisance of Baroque musical practice.
The concert began with Vivaldi’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin, RV 548, with Daichi Sugimura on oboe. He performed creditably, though there was some uncertainty in the Largo section, and he seemed more at home with the support of a warm-sounding ensemble behind him.
Amanda Babington then addressed the audience, and in particular the children, saying something about the composers and the instruments in a tone that struck just the right note: informative and lively, without a hint of condescension. Then we heard Vivaldi’s A minor concerto for recorder, RV 461, with the versatile Naomi Waverley-Hudson switching from violin to recorder. She rose to the occasion well, carrying off this difficult solo part with great aplomb. The accompaniment was, as is essential in these pieces, crisp and light, particularly in the final allegro.
After some more introductory words from Amanda Babington, who really impressed both as a player and a leader, we heard Corelli’s Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 9, in which the leader took a major role. The group skipped through this piece with some gusto, giving appropriate weight to the ‘vivace’ marking in the corrente and the final minuetto.
This was by no means a fully polished performance, and there were some minor glitches, but there was so much to admire here, with some very talented musicians on show. I am sure we will hear more from Amanda Babington in particular: Definitely one to watch!
Reviewer: Rob Spence
Reviewed: 25th November 2016