A perfect b’day present
Although my birthday fell on September 5, I made sure that my friends knew that I would not be available that evening, and had an anticipatory birthday party a few days earlier. The reason was that I did not wish to miss ‘Viva Vivaldi’, the concert to be given by the Colombo Chamber Orchestra directed by Lakshman Joseph de Saram that was to be on my birthday. I knew I had made the right decision when I went to the concert at the Lionel Wendt.
“Viva Vivaldi” was devoted to the music of the Red Priest, and featured two young Italian soloists and was conducted by an English-born musician Leo Phillips.Gordon Fantini, a young Italian maestro on the bassoon, was soloist in two of Vivaldi’s minor key Bassoon Concertos.
His mastery of the instrument was truly on display in this performance, as he showed us how wrong we are to suppose that the Bassoon is just a continuo instrument, which it was, till Vivaldi took it in hand.
In the music he wrote for this unwieldy instrument, Vivaldi was no doubt ahead of his time, and presaged music for the instruments invented by the Sax family, where the range and flexibility was increased, but could not adequately match the timbre of this fagotto or “bundle of firewood”.
It was a pity indeed that the second soloist, the 15-year-old child prodigy on the violin, stole some of the thunder from the Bassoonist, so that the audience went away, amazed at his skill and had forgotten the marvelous dexterity and clarity of tone of this slightly older soloist, who had, in many ways, a more difficult instrument to cope with, with possibly less sympathetic listeners.
It was also a pity that I did not see a single Sri Lankan bassoonist, except one who has given up playing in public for some time, at the concert. They missed a master class.
The miniature violinist, Paolo Tagliamento, played Vivaldi’s most popular piece “The Four Seasons” with considerable aplomb and maturity. After a somewhat hesitant start, he grew in stature as the piece progressed to its triumphant conclusion and the inevitable encore.
The perfect blending of the cembalo continuo played by Eshantha Peiris and the solo cello played by Shinich Muratai, accompanying both soloists in their cadenza like passages, added to the beauty of the overall performance. Thank you both, and the double bass too, who joined them at certain points.
This review cannot end without a word about the conductor. By his economy of movement and the absence of any ambiguity conveyed to either the soloist or the orchestra, he was able to help both the soloists and the members of the orchestra to give of their best, both in precision playing and modulation of sound as and when required, to render to us the listeners, a memorable concert, and to me a perfect birthday present. Who can ask for more?
Thank you Lakshman, without you this concert would not have been possible, and the players and the soloists, not forgetting the conductor. I hope I shall not have to wait for my next birthday, if it ever comes, to experience a similar audial delight.
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