Palladian Ensemble - An Excess of Pleasure - Gramophone

This enterprising selection of largerly unfamiliar works open with Marco Uccellini's Aria sopra "La Bergamasca", an immediately attractive and spirited set of variations on a repeated bass patterns and a highly suitable opener for a carefully-chosen and surprisingly varied sequence. indeed, from its origins in Italy at the beginning of the century, the combination of two melody instruments above a supporting basso continuo developed to become, in the shape of the trio sonata, one of the central forms of the baroque. All the composers on this record worked at one time in England, thus giving a rather tangential perspective on that development, but it is precisely such curiosities as Geminiani's delightful Scots Airs, despatched here with a breathtaking command of the intricate and demanding passagewrk, that give this selection its charm. in terms of style there could hardly be a greater contrast between this and Matthew Locke's eccentric and at times hauntingly melancholic Broken Consort in D, while Biagio Marini's Sonata breathes the entirely different air of Italian academicism.

A considerable part of the success of this record lies in the ingenuity and knowledge with which the pieces have been chosen, and the unsuspected and at times quite entrancing corners of the early baroque that they reveal, from the seemingly effortless counterpoint of Purcell's Two in one upon a Ground to the almost shocking modernity of the concluding Bizzarie by Matteis. The Palladian Ensemble is just two years old, but they have already attracted considerable critial acclaim for their stylish and committed performances. Here they play with verve and enthusiasm, but that is not to imply lack of either polish and subtlety; at times virtuosic, at others gently affective, this is playing of a high order in terms of both technique and imaginative power.

01 January 1993