CD review: Marsyas play Barsanti

First published in the Guardian on 3 August, 2017

Barsanti & Handel: Edinburgh 1742
Ensemble Marsyas/Whelan (Linn)

What went on behind closed doors in Edinburgh in 1742? The Enlightenment city had no concert halls but there was plenty music afoot. Any self-respecting merchant had a couple of horn-playing servants to follow him up Arthur’s Seat; meanwhile the keen amateurs of the Edinburgh Musical Society imported professional string players from Italy to up their own game. One was composer Francesco Barsanti, who lived in Scotland for eight years and loved the traditional fiddle music he found here. The superstar castrato Tenducci also wound up singing Society gigs while hiding from scandal abroad. Peter Whelan and his terrific Ensemble Marsyas reconstruct a typical Society concert and it’s a intriguing insight, played with great style and charisma. We get the broad, bright elegance of Barsanti’s concerti grossi, his tasteful treatment of old Scots tunes plus a double horn concerto and an aria from Alcina by Handel, mezzo Emilie Renard fierce as Tenducci.