Edinburgh 1742, Part II
Barsanti: Concerto grosso in C major, Op. 3 Nos 6-8; Concerto grosso in D major, Op. 3 Nos 9 & 10; A Collection of Old Scots Tunes; Handel: Atalanta, HWV 35 – Overture
Ensemble Marsyas/Peter Whelan
Linn Records CKD626 51:51 mins
Eighteenth-century Edinburgh’s flourishing musical life drew the émigré Italian composer Francesco Barsanti (1690-1775) to settle in ‘the Athens of the North’ for nigh on a decade. Providing a pendant to their 2017 recording of Barsanti and Handel, Peter Whelan and the Edinburgh-based Ensemble Marsyas here serve up five of Barsanti’s concerti grossi together with – by way of an interlude – a medley of Old Scots Tunes and Handel’s overture to the pastoral opera Atalanta.
Barsanti’s Op. 3 concerti grossi (published in 1742) are exuberant and felicitous works, faintly Handelian in style (the two men knew each other) but infused to an even greater degree with an airy Italian grace. Movements alternate the stately with the playful, fugues and dances, robust and delicate textures – so building a set of contrasts that are beautifully highlighted by this crack ensemble.
Barsanti has a real flair for orchestral colour, too: flashing trumpets and rollicking timpani offset reedy oboes and muted violins. Director/harpsichordist Peter Whelan coaxes articulate phrasing, buoyant rhythms, and subtly nuanced dynamics from his players, and the ensemble’s silvery sound is faithfully captured by Linn’s recording engineers.
Into Barsanti’s delightful arrangements of traditional Scottish folk melodies, fiddler Colin Scobie and Elizabeth Kenny (Baroque guitar) pour more than a wee dram of Gaelic spirit.