Review of Red Priest by Garry Fraser


Garry Fraser joined us at St John's Kirk on Wednesday 24th May 2023 to review 'A Baroque Extravaganza' with Red Priest.

"And as for Piers Adams, everything he touched turned to gold, and I’ve yet to see a more vivacious, more exciting and more virtuosic exponent of the recorder through all its sizes from soprano to bass."

One of the first records I bought many, many years ago when I started a life-long affinity with classical music was called “Zauber des Baroque”. The magic of this period of music lingers on, and I delight in any manifestation whether it be solo, ensemble, choral or instrumental. However, in the hands of a spirited quartet like Red Priest – Piers Adams (recorder), Julia Bishop (violin), Angela East (cello) and David Wright (harpsichord), named after the original Red Priest, Antonio Vivaldi – baroque music contains extra spice, more vivacity in interpretation and even more bewildering virtuosity. They don’t exactly put the rock in baroque, but flair and dashing performance is plain to see. Each player is a master of his or her own art but collectively they are a stunning and exciting ensemble as Wednesday night’s concert in St John’s Kirk proved.

Perhaps there was just too much animation in the opening Bach solo violin Partita, one of the works in the programme cunningly arranged for the ensemble, as I found them slightly out of sync. But from then on, they dovetailed to perfection with the balance as spot-on as one would wish. Each had his or her moment to shine, although Adams’ amazing technique seemed to dominate the proceedings. I loved Angela East’s relaxed interpretation of the first movement of Bach’s G major cello suite, matched by Julia Bishop’s beautiful and moving Telemann Fantasia, and David Wright’s keyboard dexterity shone in his Couperin Chaconne. And as for Piers Adams, everything he touched turned to gold, and I’ve yet to see a more vivacious, more exciting and more virtuosic exponent of the recorder through all its sizes from soprano to bass.

As I said, most of the music was arranged for this unusual musical line-up, but nothing detracted from the original. It is more likely that a Handel Concerto Grosso, a Vivaldi or Telemann concerto or works by Purcell, Cazzati and Ortiz benefited from the Red Priest treatment. It was the last work in the programme that summed up how vastly entertaining their arrangements of well-known music can be. We all know Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, one of the most famous organ works ever written. From now on, I’ll remember it in the guise of this fabulous ensemble, a clever and innovated arrangement that was just as good as – or dare I say better than – its original form. 

The Perth Festival of the Arts never fail to deliver the goods, in all genres of the arts. As usual, this delivery was all you could ask for in terms of fabulous music, fabulously played.