Festivities Review, The Parnassian Ensemble

The Parnassian Ensemble made their regular appearance at the Lewis Brownlee lunchtime concert series in St John’s Chapel on Friday 1st July. In an all English baroque programme covering Byrd to Handel, the ensemble introduced the audience to a variety of relatively “new” names.

I was dubious about hearing Handel’s famous ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ played on two recorders and continuo, but Helen Hooker’s arrangement worked extremely well. A Purcell ‘sandwich’ of the bread of a harpsichord Prelude by Henry Purcell, ably performed by David Pollock on his Italian style harpsichord, and the Chaconne from his ‘Dioclesian’ for two recorders and continuo, with the filling being a trio-sonata by Henry’s younger brother Daniel Purcell, worked well. The Parnassian – Sophie Middleditch and Helen Hooker (recorders), Lynden Cranham (cello) and David Pollock on harpsichord) – are well attuned to period performance style and their technique and ensemble achieves a degree of perfection rarely heard. David’s solo playing in Byrd’s ‘My Ladye Nevels Grownde’, getting more and more complex and virtuosic through each variation, was flawless.

The less well-known composers were represented by a duo sonata for the two recorders by William Croft, trio-sonatas by Robert Valentine, William Corbett and the inspiringly named William Williams (born in London, not Wales!). The most unusual work, however, was a sonata for solo cello by Nicola Haym, known more as a librettist for Handel’s operas, where Lynden Cranham exploited the varied textures in this short work with high degree of aplomb.

Ian Graham-Jones