London festival

London Baroque Music Festival, St John’s Smith Square

London Baroque Music Festival, St John’s Smith Square
London Baroque Music Festival, St John’s Smith Square

Claudia Prichard

The confidence and vibrancy of Baroque is a tonic in these difficult times, so a week-long festival of 17th and 18th century music is a very uplifting prospect.

In Westminster’s St John’s Smith Square, with its elegant architecture and perfect acoustics, 14 concerts dedicated to Baroque composers feature JS Bach and Vivaldi, of course, but also other masters of their time.

Honored artists include the cream of British musical creation, including pianist Joanna MacGregor, who performs haunting Bach music Goldberg Variations (Friday May 20, 7:30 p.m.), and violinist Rachel Podger with her Brecon Baroque ensemble, performing atmospheric music by Vivaldi The four Seasons (Saturday May 21, 7:30 p.m.).

Other highlights include a lecture by Erlend Vestby on JS Bach’s six virtuoso Cello Suites (Saturday 14 May, 11:30 a.m.) and a performance of Vestby’s Cello Suites Nos 1 and 2 later that evening (Saturday May 14, 9:45 p.m.).

Southbank Sinfonia, whose baroque orchestra plays on May 18

Between Earth and sea is the title of this year’s festival, a reference to Venice and its important role in this sublime musical era. The festival opens with Paul McCreesh and the singers and performers of Gabrieli in a sumptuous programme, A Venetian coronation. This musical recreation of Venetian Doge Marino Grimani’s coronation mass evokes the grand pageantry of what would have been a magnificent event (Saturday, May 13, 7:30 p.m.).

A short distance from his original performance, also listen to Handel’s water music performed by Southbank Sinfonia Baroque with music by Telemann, Locatelli and contemporaries (Wednesday May 18, 7:30 p.m.). The next evening, a Venetian classic: Monteverdi’s Vespers from 1610, performed by the Westminster Abbey Choir and St James’s Baroque (Thursday 19 May, 7 p.m.).

Whichever gigs you choose, we dare you to walk away without a new spring in your step. And a desire to visit Venice…