Review: Eboracum Baroque, Mansion House, York, May 25

THERE is nothing to match hearing music in a building of the same date. The State Room of York Mansion House was built during the 1720s, the very decade when Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was published. Its grandeur, enhanced by high ceilings and Corinthian pilasters, makes it a splendid performance arena.

Eboracum Baroque’s programme featured Vivaldi’s four concertos at the beginning and end of each half. What was unusual, however, was the use of recorder to replace the usual violin, with only a harpsichord and Baroque cello in attendance. Vivaldi was apparently aware of this arrangement, although his views on it are unknown.

Problems of authenticity fell away in the face of Miriam Monaghan’s lightning-fingered recorder. In Spring her instrument was actually a better conveyor of bird-song than the violin. It was especially vivid in the whistling winds of Winter, where her multiple-tonguing was extraordinary.

Monaghan outdid herself in Autumn, where she twice duetted with herself on two recorders simultaneously, mimicking the violin’s double-stopping. Here, as in Summer, her virtuoso runs were breathtaking. Despite occasional moments of imbalance with the cello – no fault of Jacob Garside’s steady underlay, for the recorder is an intimate instrument – this arrangement was an exciting experience.

In between, Chris Parsons offered a sonata and a concerto for high, baroque trumpet by Corelli and Torelli respectively, and baritone John Holland Avery gave arias by Purcell, Handel and Monteverdi. Alongside Marta Lopez’s nimble harpsichord, they made tasty fillings in Vivaldi’s succulent sandwich. Martin Dreyer