Florilegium:Complete Brandenburg Concertos – St George’s, Bristol

Friday 25th January, 2019

There aren’t a lot of concerts on in January, in the last 2 years I’ve been to none in this month at all. So I am very grateful that St George’s had this one. Doubly so as it coincided with Tom’s all too brief visit. We don’t usually go to classical concerts together, but as you absolutely cannot go wrong with Bach, and St George’s is such a welcoming place we both thought why not.

The opening lines of the concert programme made me want to love this evening, describing how the Branderberg’s had been written for “a man who didn’t want them, never heard them and may not have liked them if he had done so.”

I am still very much a novice classical listener, not knowing my concertos from my arias (or movements or what an adagio is) but I do know when I hear music I like and that moves me. I also know that the Bach I have heard has all been superb.

The 6 Brandenburg Concerto’s were played in full, by Florilegium, coming on and off in the various combinations of as required by each concerto. Of the 6, possibly 5 was my favourite, with the harpsichord acting a soloist (unusual). Since I visited the excellent Hendrix and Handle museum in London (it’s really worth a visit if you are in the area) and discovering that the harpsichord is closer to a guitar than a piano (the strings are plucked rather than hit) I hear it in a different way. So to my untrained ears this almost could have had guitar solos’ shredding their way through the piece. Bach was way more rock n roll than you would think!

I liked all 6 Concerto’s and you could hear how each was different, so even without the crib sheet of the programme, I could work out that they were a sort of Bach calling card of ‘look, this is what I can do.’ Each featuring different solo instruments, different combinations of strings and so on. They all had different feels too, some more upbeat and spring like, others more sombre. I recognised the 3rd, that must have been played on Radio 3 at some point when I’ve listened I guess! Mostly I felt light and lifted and happy, which are rather lovely things to feel on a cold winter’s evening.

Every musician was excellent and I like how in small ensembles like this you can pick out the sound of each instrument individually. Sometimes I even know which is which (hey, I’m still learning).

I’m sure that as my knowledge of classical music grows I’ll find additional layers to love, but even with my scrappy understanding, I know I enjoyed this concert.



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