Unobtrusively hidden away in the Cowgate, Edinburgh University’s St Cecilia’s Hall is not only the oldest purpose built concert hall in Scotland and the second oldest in Britain, but is also home to an extensive collection of early instruments, particularly keyboards but also plucked string instruments. A fascinating array of at least 50 harpsichords, virginals, spinets and fortepianos are all on public view twice a week, as are harps, lutes, citterns and guitars. As a venue it is, therefore, perfect for a new summer series of concerts celebrating music and composers from times that match the musical treasures that lie within what is otherwise a rather, from the outside, nondescript looking building.
Handel, in the 250th anniversary year of his death, is deservedly prominent everywhere at the moment and as St Cecilia’s was built just four years after he passed away in London, it is fitting that the central performance of the series is a celebration of his music from baroque violin specialist Rachel Podger, and Gary Cooper, another highly respected interpreter of early music, on harpsichord.
First though is Le Serenissima, an ensemble which was specifically formed for a performance of music by the Venetian Vivaldi, a legend in his own lifetime as a flame-red haired priest. Fifteen years later, they are firmly established as leading exponents of his music. Their Edinburgh programme is labelled Rediscovering Vivaldi and features concertos and sonatas for recorder, bassoon, violin and continuo. Edited by the group’s artistic director, Adrian Chandler, directly from original manuscripts, it is rare stuff and gives an exciting new perspective on this prolific Italian. He may be best known for The Four Seasons, but actually wrote around 800 other pieces of music, most of which were hardly heard at all from his death in 1741 until around the middle of the 20th century.
Rediscovering Vivaldi - St Cecilia’s Hall, Sun 31 May