Baroque by Nicola Benedetti & Benedetti Baroque Orchestra

What is it about Baroque music that endears itself to the modern 21st-century audience? Is it the unabashed complexity or soulful slow movements? Or does the passion of the musicians themselves infuse this old art as they throw themselves, heart and soul, into these recordings? This is Nicola Benedetti’s first period album, and she’s committed to gut strings for the performance to give the right zest to the sound.

While this album is mostly a selection of Vivaldi’s violin concertos, the centrepiece is Geminiani’s version of ‘La Folia’. In the true tradition of Baroque composers, Geminiani ‘borrowed’ his version of this melody from his teacher Corelli, who took it from who knows where. Some sources say it was originally written by Jean-Baptiste Lully, while others say it originated earlier than that. What is known, however, is that this melody has been used by more than 150 composers over three centuries and this concerto grosso (literally ‘big concerto’) of 1729 is still a very popular version.

What I particularly like about this recording is the interplay between the orchestra and Benedetti’s sound. Not just relegated to an accompanying role, the orchestra behaves as an integral part of the musical performance. The chemistry between all the musicians is evident in their blend of sounds and playful interaction with each other’s musical phrasing.

As a listener with some knowledge of both Vivaldi and Benedetti, I felt the collaboration of the two artists to be beautifully simpatico. Vivaldi worked for so many years at the all-female Ospedale della Pietà for abandoned children, elevating them beyond their circumstances. Meanwhile Benedetti has been awarded an OBE for her work with Sistema Scotland, aimed at bringing music to all children no matter what their circumstances. This meeting of souls across 280 years cannot but influence the beauty of these recordings.

Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.