REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on El Gran Teatro del Mundo, National Centre for Early Music, York, November 20

El Gran Teatro del Mundo: Undertaking first tour to be arranged by the National Centre for Early Music, York

CONCLUDING a six-stop tour around Britain, organised by the NCEM, El Gran Teatro del Mundo pitched up in York. I’m very glad they did.

As their name suggests – taken from by a 1655 mystery play by Pedro Calderón – they reflect the theatre of Baroque music, not physically, but through their instruments.

Beginning and ending with Germany, with three Vivaldi works between, they put a tasty sonata by the unknown Catalan composer Josep (aka José) Pla into the middle of their sandwich.

Oboe and recorder jostled happily at the opening of a Fasch sonata, later joined by violin in a vivacious finale, with rhythms firmly underlined by theorbo continuo. Fasch reappeared in a concerto, which also boasted a witty final Allegro.

There were stylish echo effects from violinist Claudio Rado in a trio by Vivaldi. In a concerto da camera for all six of the group, also by Vivaldi, there was some neat syncopation in the main motif, and a breath-taking furioso finale. But its real beauty lay in the central Largo, for recorder, violin and cello alone.

A second Vivaldi concerto, notable for the way the soloists bounced their lines off one another, finished with a spectacular chaconne, whose bass line was joyfully jazzed by cellist Bruno Hurtado.

At the heart of Pla’s sonata, which was in galant – post-Baroque, almost Classical – style, lay a lovely cadenza for violin and oboe. It finished with a thrilling Allegro assai. The work was handsomely introduced by an improvisation from harpsichordist Julio Caballero, who directs the ensemble. He was a mainstay throughout the evening.

Caballero delivered another cracking improvisation during the final Telemann concerto, as if it were a riff in a jazz session, before the supreme virtuosity of recorder, oboe and violin in its closing Vivace. This is a supremely talented ensemble, individually expert but also able to react to one another with spontaneity. They must return soon.

Review by Martin Dreyer