Set amid a magnificently rolling mid-Wales hillscape (your SatNav will go mad in the attempt to find it, but try Tregynon; the roads could be better signed), the imposing Gregynog, a huge, not altogether engaging mansion (though its extensive parkland is hugely attractive), has long been a venue for one of the country’s most tempting music festivals.
This year’s seductive theme is Venice, its programmes generally paying homage to that unique city and its musicians, many of its present ones making their way here, and covering a vast number of baroque composers and exponents.
There was an exciting collaboration on Sunday afternoon between the remarkable Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca, a compact, musicianly and resourceful string ensemble worth relishing in their own right, instead of here mainly just touching the raiments of the amazing violinist Giuliano Carmignola, soloist in four diverse concerti.
Carmignola is almost Paganini-like in his stage-presence, eventually too much so. Even his greatest admirers in the audience risked impatience with the interminable cadenzas of the concluding Locatelli concerto, each requiring several page-turns, and diluting the undoubted virtuosic effect of Carmignola’s amazingly deft yet lyrical playing, with such expressive bowing and glittering ornamentation.
The Sonatori responded in kind, multivaried in articulation and timbre, alert, empathetic, and with constantly recharged vitality. Sonorous and colourful continuo, too, and the most absorbing work in their ear-opening programme of (besides Locatelli), Galuppi, Leclair, Tartini and Vivaldi was in fact solo-less, with every player a vital contributor: the imaginative, colourful and utterly exciting “La Follia” Trio Sonata by Giovanni Reali. No, I’ve never heard of him either.
The Gregynog Venice festival continues until July 1. Details on 01686 207100