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Washington Post (USA)

26th February 2001


Red Priest

For people who "appreciate" classical music but have a little secret -- it bores them -- the answer is Red Priest. The four flamboyantly dressed British musicians mug, throw funny lines at us and make us laugh. But something important is going on, and it happens fast. By the time they ripped into the music Saturday night at Dumbarton Concerts in Georgetown, the audience had learned something central about it -- how, say, a two-bar canon is laid over a six-bar ground. The process was effortless, a barrel of fun and almost invisibly subtle.

Underneath it all, Red Priest -- Piers Adams (recorder), Julia Bishop (violin), Angela East (cello), Howard Beach (harpsichord) -- comes to play.


Adams, their Pan-like leading comedian, is an astonishing recorder virtuoso who unleashes volleys of notes with piercing articulation and firearm precision. Bishop partners with comparable authority, and the ensemble presses fast tempos to frenetic extremes that would be ridiculously hell-for-leather if the music were not so immaculately forged and cunningly phrased. Sometimes -- as in Telemann's "Gypsy" Sonata in A Minor -- Red Priest uses "rhetorical style" to expand or compress tempos bar by bar, an outrageous trick that pulls the music around like taffy and threatens chaos at every turn. But gyroscopic rhythmic integrity averted disaster and made the outcome legitimately baroque and thoroughly musical. An electrified audience shouted and cheered.

Ronald Broun

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