Chichester is so fortunate. Not only does it have an accomplished band of baroque instrumentalists performing regularly, but also that group has the wisdom to expand its quality horizons by enticing top players to direct its concerts.
That was the case on Sunday (18th), when The Consort of Twelve flooded St John's Chapel with glorious sound in the final concert of its 2016 season. Leading the regular musicians in a programme of string and wind works by German baroque masters Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann was Catherine Mackintosh, an important pioneer in the modern revival of early music.
In the finest of the evening's many memorable moments, however, the lead bow was held by one of the rising stars of the baroque violin, Sara Deborah Struntz, another guest player. The performance of Bach's Concerto for two violins in D major by Struntz and Mackintosh was superb. The empathy between the two players, their eloquence in the slow movement and the vivacity of the two quicker ones brought deserved applause almost enough to raise the roof of the historic chapel.
It wasn't a concert simply of individual stars, though. All the soloists - also Helen Hooker and Sophie Middleditch on recorders and flute, and cellist Lynden Cranham - were excellent, but they were part of an ensemble which handled a challenging programme with happy expertise.
While Brandenburg Concerto No 4 brought the concert to a bubbling, bouncing close, other works, most notably Bach's Ricercare à 6 from The Musical Offering, were less familiar and particularly demanding of the players. The sell-out audience clearly appreciated both the programming and its achievement.
When the music was over, there was more to come: a warm appreciation, on behalf of Sunday's audience and all those over the 35 years of the Consort's existence, of the efforts of co-founder Ian Graham-Jones and his wife Jean, both players in the group until very recently. They are moving from Chichester - but they have promised to return for future concerts.
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