THE York Early Music Christmas Festival started with a splendid concert by Spiritato!

Thursday's concert opened with a trumpet call to arms from different corners of the venue followed by stirring timpani responses. After a formal invite from the violins, the whole ensemble duly joined in (music by Magnus Thomsen and Cesare Bendinelli).

The sound was extraordinary, a unique authenticity; the trumpets were ‘natural’, they had no valves or finger holes and the string players had instruments which used strings made entirely from gut.

Following a delightful performance of Biber’s Trombett Undt Musikalischer was Johann Heinrich Schmelzer’s Sonata Per Chiesa Et Camera. This took the form of a kind of delicious courting ritual with antiphonal chat between the trumpets and strings; the conclusion, of course, was harmony.

Then it was back to Biber and his extraordinary Rosary Sonata I: Annunciation. Kinga Ujszászi gave a performance of spellbinding virtuosity and yet one which maintained a musical charm throughout. The interval was framed by two utterly lovely sonatas by Schmelzer. The musical exchanges were simply a joy, with the performers themselves seeming to be having as much fun as the audience.

These musical exchanges continued in Pavel Josef Vejvanovsky’s Serenada XXVII, a delightful game of musical tennis with both the strings and trumpets once again in musical conversation.

What added to this fantastic concert was the way the performers interacted not only with each other but with the audience too. All good things must come to an end, however, and the concert closed with a wonderful performance of Antonio Bertali’s Sonata sublationis.