Violin Concerto in C minor, Op. 5/5; Concerti grossi – Op. 3 Nos 1 & 5; Op. 10 Nos 3-5
Lidewij van der Voort (violin); La Sfera Armoniosa/Mike Fentross
Challenge CC72829 60:09 mins
Contemporary with Bach and Handel, Willem de Fesch was a native of Holland where he was a celebrated violinist. In 1731 he moved to London where he lived until his death 30 years later. Though better known nowadays for his sonatas and concertos Fesch was an early pioneer of English oratorio, the lone survivor of which, Joseph, was discovered in 1980.
Fesch’s music is unfailingly attractive, notwithstanding Dr Burney’s withering assessment of it as ‘in general dry and uninteresting’. The present disc features concertos from three sets issued between around 1717 and 1741. Corelli, on the one hand, and Vivaldi on the other were clearly strong influences. Indeed, in the opening movement of Op. 5 No. 5 we might be forgiven for believing, if only momentarily, that it had been penned by the Venetian. The concerto features a solo violin whose expressive and sometimes technically challenging role perhaps affords us a glimpse of Fesch’s own skill as a player. This fine work is the high point of a well-chosen programme.
Several of the concertos featured here have been recorded in the past, but performances of this calibre make a valuable gesture towards redressing undeserved neglect. Just occasionally, as in the A minor Concerto Grosso, there are rough edges in the upper strings, but they hardly detracted from my enjoyment. This is, after all, a live recording, with applause at the end. In short, here is a pleasing overview of Fesch’s concerto writing, some favouring four movements, others three. Unhelpfully, no movement details are provided in the accompanying documentation.