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Brecon Baroque festival review – vibrant Vivaldi and mesmerising Monteverdi

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Brecon cathedral/Theatr Brycheiniog
Rachel Podger led I Fagiolini through a gutsy, refined rendering of Monteverdi’s vespers and gave the Four Seasons thrilling new life

With characteristic ingenuity, I Fagiolini have looked beyond the obvious for their celebration of Monteverdi’s 450th anniversary, and with it their own 30th, to bring to the public ear what they call The Other Vespers, namely not the Vespers of 1610. A collection evocatively named Selva Morale e Spirituale – A Moral and Spiritual Wood – dating from 1641 is the source of these other vespers. The handful of Fagiolini singers performing them at Brecon Cathedral, under the direction of Robert Hollingworth at the chamber organ, seemed to catapult the past into the present with the immediacy of the experience.

There was a single singer to each part and much varying of the number and disposition of the eight voices. Highly individual timbres lent a greater clarity to the weaving of the contrapuntal lines, often imitated in close proximity by two violins and by Gawain Glenton’s cornett ornamentation. The I Fagiolini sound, by turns gutsy and refined, and their rendering of Monteverdi’s sinuous chromaticism, in particular, worked well in the cathedral, with the final Salve Regina made memorable by Matthew Long’s tenor.

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