My friends Donald Christie and Claire Cassidy were shopping recently for tiles for their new bathroom and popped into a rather snazzy shop. Browsing around, they spotted a lovely “baroque” design they fancied. They asked for a quote, but the salesman drew a blank. “Baroque? Baroque? No, we don’t stock anything like that,” he told them. So they took him gently by the arm to the corner of the store where the tile was on display. “Ah,” he exclaimed, “you mean the barrow-cue!” So, me and my pals are off to see a true barrow-cue programme filled with slushy delights, with Pachelbel’s Canon and, of course, Albinoni’s Adagio alongside the Four Seasons.
The Albinoni is adequate – certainly, they take it at the accurate walking pace rather than the funereal crawl of some interpretations – but it lacks emotional engagement. Least successful is the Pachelbel. Stripped of the soloist, the remaining quartet struggle somewhat, largely due to an occasionally erratically tuned viola player and a first violinist who is prone to some lazy slurring.
However, the Four Seasons works exceptionally well, largely due to the energy and virtuosity of the (unnamed) soloist. This is a young man who obviously loves performing Vivaldi, and he may well go far beyond this somewhat touristy ensemble. He is excellent, and more than rescues the evening. Let’s face it, we’re in Venice, just off the Rialto Bridge, in a May heatwave listening to some beautiful instruments in the ideal setting. What’s not to enjoy?