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The Recorder Magazine

Spring 2003

Nightmare in Venice

Dorian Recordings DOR 90305

The long awaited second CD release from Red Priest has finally arrived and goodness, it’s even more gutsy and in your face than the first (if that’s possible). The repertoire is based around music of the ensemble’s namesake and takes the listener on a highly stimulating, virtual non-stop musical tour of Venice with music from the Renaissance through to the High Baroque.

Vivaldi’s “La Notte” (“The Nightmare”) Concerto opens proceedings and with all its verve and gusto the listener knows they’re in for a fiendish journey. Although originally intended for a larger ensemble, every nuance is carefully and precisely articulated (almost to the point of caricature in places), so that one finds it hard to believe that there are only four musicians making this sound. Angela East’s eerie and unnerving staccato opening gives us a hint of the horrors that await us, and even in the additional Largo movements, which can potentially offer some reflection and respite, there is always a sense of impending doom underlying the scene which Red Priest capture in vivid detail. Il Sonno (“The Sleep”) is full of tension and anxiety, further pressed by Howard Beach’s timely improvisation before the players recoil in horror as the final movement reminds us that the nightmare is not over, yet.

After such an all-consuming and frenetic opening Robert Johnson’s Satyr’s Masque offers a little time out. Virtuosic nonetheless, the rustic tunes and follies are more light-hearted in spirit and this dance makes up a larger suite which is comprised of other furies and masques by R. Johnson and the aptly-named Nicholas Le Strange. Angela East’s performance of R. Johnson’s Flatt Masque is simply delicious.


The two 17th-century Italian sonatas, Cima’s Sonata a Tre and Castello’s Sonata Decima, are equally poignant and vivacious and the players’ virtuosity is really quite astonishing in places. Separating these sonatas is Vivaldi’s exciting Concerto Grosso in A minor, performed with flair and imagination, and a charming suite from Purcell’s The Faqiry Queen which offers some introspection and a chance to get your breath back!

The Penultimate arrangement on this CD, Jean-Marie Leclair’s Suite from Scylla et Glaucus, is on paper perhaps the least likely to be demonic or ghoulish; however with its sensual lnes and rather flamboyant writing (helped along by a devilish quote from Danse Macabre), it juxtaposes refinement with outbursts of energy resulting in a hybrid of activity.

To conclude this spectacular tour de force we are treated to an intoxicating fantasy based on Corelli’s La Folia. Again here East’s solo opening is haunting with a rawness about it, before the madness transcends. This arrangement has everything in it from a cheeky extract of Elgar’s cello concerto (you have to here it), to some wonderfully intense showmanship that makes one proud to be British.

Whilst CD recordings are said to never wholly capture th realm of the concert platform, Red Priest’s spectacular musical theatre succeeds a thousand times in bringing the concert to you; I just hope you aren’t afraid of the dark…a must!

Louise Phillips

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