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

Piers Adams (recorders), Julia Bishop (violin), Angela East (cello) and Howard Beach (harpsichord)

March 31 2010 Cadogan Hall, London

The audience for Red Priest nearly filled this large hall for a live performance of music from their latest disc, which mixes virtuosity with tender accounts of slow music, all given with consummate musicality and theatrical skill, led from his multiple recorders by Piers Adams, who introduced each item in a conversational manner with a hand microphone which was happily discarded for the music.

Red Priest dressed up as "pirates" to help get across the serious message that improvisation, rearrangements and plagiarising - musical piracy of all sorts - were commonlace in the 18th C. Each item had an interesting story, which will have helped to maintain interest of the many young and very young concertgoers, for whom the excitement of the occasion will have made a lasting impression.

There were some good stories, especially about 'Giovanni Paolo Simonetti', invented by an enterprising german musician, Herr Winfried Michel around the 1980s, and the dubious story of Albinoni's famous Adagio, reconstructed from a fragment rescued by an Italian musicologist who "lost it" again, if you believe such improbabilities.

Fears that Red Priest might be amplified proved groundless. There was none of the all too frequent clutter of microphones and loud speakers to be seens on stage. It was wonderful to see how their way with the music, laced by anecdotes between items, brought listeners old and very young into their orbit. It took only the first minutes to acclimatise to this intimate chamber music, as happens when concert audiences can be treated with respect and natural sound.

I found myself thinking that with their communicative skills in the actual music making, Red Priest could probably work the Albert Hall onto their side - an unforgettable memory of how that can be done against odds was of a late night Indian Classical Music Prom, years ago, with the players sat on the floor in the middle of the Arena and their quiet music creating a spell.

But with the UK's mainly Indian audience for their own music nowadays, that seems a lost cause; amplification for impact is the order of the day, as it is for contemporary pop; the more subtle parameters of their classical music having given way to the thirst for "excitement" perceived in terms of hearing-ruining decibels...

Peter Grahame Woolf

See review of Red Priest CDs and Red Priest videos on YouTube