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Pirates of the Baroque

Leclair, Simonetti, Albinoni, Couperin, Tartini,
Vitali & Vivaldi

Red Priest: Piers Adams, Julia Bishop, Angela East & Howard Beach

Red Priest recordings RP04 [distributer Nimbus/Wyastone]

I have been dimly aware of Red Priest as a baroque "cross over" group for some years, but they didn't appear on release lists received and, in general, we have found cross over ventures disappointing and have preferred to concentrate on, for example, authentic HIP recordings of early music, and of Indian Classical music.

So it has happened that I am indebted to Early Music Review, which deserves to be more widely known than amongst specialists. The Editor Clifford Bartlett leavens the scholarship with a light touch and they have kept the price right down by eschewing glossy presentation and advertising.

Reviewing on EMR this new CD, together with the re-release of their three earlier discs, Victoria Helby notes that despite the liberties they take, Red Priest's background is well founded in "historically aware performance"; their Vivaldi Four Seasons is her favourite version, but she is not so sure about cries of 'Ship Ahoy' and 'Shiver my timbers' in Vivaldi's Tempesta di Mare concerto...

We have had inordinate pleasure from the four discs kindly supplied; the lynchpin is the high virtuosity and imagination of Piers Adam (recorders) but his colleagues are not far behind.

Red Priest's repertoire ranges from obscure 17th century sonatas to Bach and Vivaldi, presented in imaginative programmes with filmic titles such as: "Priest on the Run", "Nightmare in Venice" & "Pirates of the Baroque", the programme which they are currently touring. We hope to catch their next London concert at Cadogan Hall, 31st March.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See Red Priest on video

Also received for review:

Baroque Cello Illuminations

Eccles Sonata in no 11 G minor
DeFesch Sonata Op 8 no 3 in D minor
Vivaldi Sonata no 5 in E minor RV40
Couperin Pièces en Concert
Sammartini/Berteau Sonata Op 1a no 3 in G major
Bach Suite no 1 in G major BWV1007

Angela East, baroque cello
Howard Beach, harpsichord

Red Priest recordings RP005


A nice disc of "old favourites cello teachers like to teach" available to them discounted.

Perhaps the least flamboyant of the Red Priests, good to have Angela East featured. All despatched with style and conviction and a good model for cello students everywhere.

Bach Suites

Angela East, baroque cello

Red Priest recordings RP006

Even more impressive is Angela East's recording of the ubiquitous Bach solo suites.

It would be disingenuous to say that my heart warms to every new set of these that tumbles through my letter box, but Angela has preempted my usual plea for something different, and sampling these new accounts on baroque cello (Warmsley 1725) I have to concede her claim that for her these suites have been the music that has "created the most positive rapport between performer and audience".

Yes, having sampled one, I have gone on to listen to the others, and am happy to confirm that these CDs earn a place in any cello fancier's library.

There are two special features, the first a series of images which she relates to the different Suites (photos Graham Flack) and the second Angela East's saga from her initial recordings (Quebec 2001 & New York 2004) to fulfillment in CD release September 2009.

This saga, recounted fully in the liner booklet, parallels mine with recordings with my (then) small son in 1968-69 of LPs which still await re-release on CDs forty-years on...

Peter Grahame Woolf

JSBach arr. Red Priest

Red Priest recordings RP07 [distributer Nimbus/Wyastone]

Johann, I'm only dancing
is the latest version of the Red Priest experience. I am (despite remonstrances from good musician friends) prejudiced in favour of the group and had no difficulty with its philosophy as expounded by the writer(s) of the unsigned liner notes here. And the first half dozen tracks made for compelling listening over a meal...

But returning to the disc, ennui set in. Piers Adams' virtuosity seems to be the chief motor for his colleagues, and it sometimes drives them to joining him in over-frenetic haste... And towards the end, resistance increased in a dreadful 3rd Brandenburg, with a ludicrous embellishment of the two-chords cadenza...

There are oases of beauty on the way, which I shall not particularise. We enjoyed Red Priest as Pirates at Cadogan Hall, but I am chary of joining their dancing JSB there on May 18 this year.

And I have a problem with their get-ups and antics as chosen to illustrate the new disc's booklet, which I am avoiding outside and in. There is a DVD on the way; but will you want to play it more than once?

Meanwhile, sample a few minutes of The Seasons on YouTube and make up your own minds whether to go for this "new sort of 'rock-chamber-Bach'".