#BRISTOLPROMS Day 4 – Prombassadors: Jon James

Jonathan James

Jonathan James

Jonathan James

This was a complete stormer of a concert. We knew from last year that we were in for a treat, with Daniel Hope reprising his role as raconteur-virtuoso. This time he brought five musical friends with him. Not just any five though, but some of the world’s most prestigious period players, like one of those movies which has the best of the best gathered for one perfect last heist. The combined talent on the stage was jaw-dropping, even to a hardened concert-goer such as myself. Hope was on absolutely top form, but his percussionist almost stole the show, half clown, half matador.

There was something about this particular concert being in the Baroque splendour of the Old Vic, with the ghost of Paganini centre stage, that helped lift it into another sphere. It was a programme of true seventeenth century theatricality (including, to everyone’s delight, the Old Vic’s own period rain and wind machines). The energy of the players was stupendous, and I could easily overspill with adjectives describing their verve and vitality. But I won’t. You had to be there to experience that very rare chemistry when the entire audience is connected to every phrase the artists utter, willing them on, rapt. I spent the whole evening with a wide grin, both delighted and stupefied.

All the risk-taking, duelling and jousting of the Baroque was there. All the colourful improvisation and ornamentation was there too, with bells on. This is the closest classical music gets to the spirit of a rock gig, with all the peacockery and brinkmanship that implies. By turns rough and punchy then suave and seductive. Breath-taking musicianship.

Jon James is a music educator and writer, well known in Bristol for his series of illustrated talks in the city’s concert venues.

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