Ensemble Marsyas/Peter Whelan: Edinburgh 1742, Barsanti & Handel, Parte Seconda

Fri, Nov 6, 2020, 05:00

   
 

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Peter Whelan and his Ensemble Marsyas were showered with praise three years ago for their first exploration of the music of Francesco Barsanti (circa 1690-1775). Barsanti arrived in London in 1714 with fellow Italian composer Francesco Geminiani. Geminiani would spend much time in Dublin, but Barsanti is associated instead with Edinburgh where, in 1742, his Concerti Grossi, Op 3, became the first concertos ever published in Scotland, and the first with parts for timpani to be published anywhere.

Barsanti also has Irish connections. His music features in 18th-century collections here, and both husbands of his daughter Jane, a celebrated actor and singer, were Irish: John Richard Kirwan Lyster and, after his death, the actor-manager Richard Daly. 

Whelan’s first Barsanti collection included the concertos with horns and timpani, and the new one completes the set with those featuring trumpet, oboes and timpani. Whelan’s airy and sprightly approach captures well the pleasurably frisky energy of Barsanti’s often highly colourful instrumental writing. The composer also made deft, sensitive arrangements of Scottish airs, four of which are played on violin (Colin Scobie handling the ornamentation in nimble style) and baroque guitar (Elizabeth Kenny). The overture to Handel’s Atalanta provides a purposefulness of musical stride to contrast with Barsanti’s less keenly focused style.