The Armonico Consort with Rachel Podger
Pump Rooms, Leamington
The Armonico Consort recently received news of a government cash lifeline to sustain them in these troubled times. They were understandably due a celebration and nothing could have bettered this wonderful champagne flute of a collaboration with baroque violin nonpareil Rachel Podger.
TV documentary producers, lift manufacturers and telephone system programmers have all conspired to make Vivaldi’s best-known melodies among the most ubiquitous tunes on Earth. The Four Seasons has become something of a shorthand note for nature, relaxation, sophistication and more. There can’t be anything we don’t know about this music surely?
Well not so here. This unashamedly joyous romp through the musical year restored many things, not least the sense of this being a celebration of the changing face of nature, with the key word being celebration.
With someone as inspirational as Rachel Podger at the helm there’s a danger the others on the stage can become little more than a backing band, but that could not be further from the truth for the six members of the consort who, both individually and collectively, played starring roles of their own.
Presenting the work as pared down as this means there’s no orchestral richness behind which to hide. This was individual musicians interacting with each other – the looks, the ebullience, even the fun readings of the piece’s underpinning poetry all simply worked.
The Pump Rooms’ generous reverb allowed the warmth of the period playing an extra depth of texture and the performance, like the sound, was powerful and captivating. Covid restrictions may have hampered the programme length – the ensemble played two sittings to allow social distancing to be observed – but nobody can have gone away from this without feeling they’d seen something very special indeed.
The seasons have, in my experience, never been better portrayed and celebrated than in this cracking hour. But perhaps it’s music making itself that’s being celebrated most, and the belief worth clinging to that the metaphorical winter we seem to be mired in will one day clear to make way for a spring of sorts.
The Armonico Consort, reunited with the choir, are back in Warwick for a couple of dates in December bringing an evening of German Christmas music and then traditional carols by candlelight. You can find out dates, times and booking details at armonico.org.uk .