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An Italian Rant! Eighteenth-Century Italian Masters in Britain

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Location: The Foundling Museum, London
Event Date: November 2011
Review Date: 2nd January 2012
Reviewed By: Luke Emmet
Review Citation: Luke Emmet, review of An Italian Rant! Eighteenth-Century Italian Masters in Britain
Date Accessed: 2nd September 2015

A striking addition to the UK Early Music scene, L'Avventura London reminds us that you do not need to be long established to make an impact. Directed by the early plucked instrument specialist, Žak Ozmo, who also introduced the concert held to celebrate three distinct aspects: the launch of their second CD An Italian Rant! (ONCD 015); their partnership with the Foundling Museum; and the formation of the London Community Baroque Orchestra, an educational offshoot of the group.

The 25 November concert at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury, London featured pieces taken from L’Avventura’s latest CD, An Italian Rant!, which focuses on the role played by Italian musicians in London's musical world in the eighteenth century.

The event was opened by a pre-concert talk by writer and musicologist Jeremy Barlow, who charted the impact of the popular eighteenth-century tune ‘An Italian Rant’, and how its influence can be heard within a wide range of well known pieces by composers as diverse as Mozart, Grieg and Smetana. Perhaps like the three chord trick of modern pop music, its harmonic sequence is at once generic and familiar, well suited to underpin many a catchy tune.

The group was modestly comprised, with two violins (Ivana Ćetković, Ben Sansom), oboe (Geoffrey Coates), viola (Sam Kennedy), 'cello (Natasha Kraemer), harpsichord (David Gordon) and was directed from the archlute by Žak Ozmo.

The concert proper opened with Vivaldi's well known Concerto in G minor (RV 156). The performers blew the cobwebs off the piece by really digging and lifting the opening Allegro into a dance-like form. In spite of the tempo the details were crisp and sharp, with marked contrasts of light and shade.

For me, the highlights of the evening were the three items in the middle of the programme. The first of these was Cervetto's Sonata in G minor, Op. 1. No.3. Cervetto is a lesser-known composer who emigrated from Italy and became a darling of the cello section of the orchestra at Drury Lane Theatre. The opening Adagio is based around a duet between the violins, replete with crunchy suspensions designed to tug the heart strings. In this sonata, the personalities of the violinists seemed to come through in the performance; Ćetković 's lead violin was assertively voluble and offset by Sansom's more restrained second violin, making for a balanced coupling.

David Gordon gave a virtuosic performance of the Paradisi harpsichord concerto (Sonata No. 7 in Bb Major from Sonate di gravicembalo), complete with spellbinding cadenza which went off-road to give vent to his jazzy fantasy before seamlessly returning.

On hearing Geoffrey Coates’s lyrical rendition of Albinoni's famous Concerto for Oboe and Strings in D minor, Op. 9, No. 2, I was left wondering why the Baroque oboe was replaced by the modern oboe. The mellow warmth of the instrument really shone through, with a sound closer to that other unjustly overlooked wind instrument the cornetto.

The concert was rounded off by an original adaptation of ‘An Italian Rant’ played in a most spirited way, with a cameo appearance from a tambourine to jingle us on our way.

If you like your Baroque music to be fun, spirited, direct and uplifting, L'Avventura London should definitely be on your watch list. Their fresh musical performance demonstrated how these Italian musical immigrants and compositions came to be among Britain's most interesting and intelligible fixations.

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