At first sight, you might think that this
was a conventional recital of baroque music, though if you recognise
the performers that might give the game away. Red Priest are
a group who specialise in theatrical and outrageously different
interpretations the baroque repertoire.
The list of works reads like a typical recital,
with music by Leclair, Simonetti, Albinoni, Couperi, Vivaldi
and Tartini. But the title of the CD, 'Pirates of the Baroque'
does rather suggest something different. In fact this title
comes from Howard Beach's suite based on movements from Couperin's
Ordres. Beach's arrangement is not a conventional assemblage,
but purports to depict the life of a baroque pirate complete
with some vocalisation from Beach and a quote from Handel's
In fact, the whole recital is as highly coloured
as this might suggest. Red Priest's way with the music employs
every expressive, and overly expressive, device ever used in
this repertoire. There are bent notes, extreme contrasts of
dynamics and tempo, high speeds, swooping lines, exaggerated
articulation and other devices, all of which you may find exciting
or merely annoying.
This highly coloured attitude to the music applies
to the harmonies as well. The group give the impression that
they are improvising, perhaps that is the idea. This rather
free attitude applies to the material itself so that stray foreign
styles and odd quotations are introduced.
There is a genuine idea behind the recital, the
way the musicians of the baroque re-used other people's material.
But this seems to get lost somewhere, especially as they include
a sonata by Simonetti which turns out to be by a modern German
called Winfried Michel. They also include the Albinoni Adagio
which could be an arrangement of a fragment of real Albinoni
by Remo Giazotto, but is probably one of Giazotto's original
This recital is in a very specific style, which
will not appeal to everyone. Red Priest's way with the music
can be seen as a way of revitalising the repertoire. Though
perhaps the repertoire does not need revitalising.
This disc is undoubtedly exciting and invigorating,
perhaps best bought for someone who finds that baroque music
is boring. So I'd definitely advise trying before buying.
See also review
by Jonathan Woolf