Vivaldi’s Venice at Bilton Grange 30th May

Considering I’m ‘Fiori Fan’, it’s pretty bad that I’ve not seen Fiori Musicali play live despite them being local. So I put that to rights on Thursday when I took a nice drive over Bilton Grange, a lovely old school in Dunchurch, Warwickshire.

Friendly greeting from Fiori Musical at Bilton GrangeI was greeted by a grand building and some friendly students who eagerly opened the door for me – a great first impression. Service with a smile!

Fiori were playing music from their CD Vivaldi’s Venice, so I was familiar with some of the music to be played. The Fiori team gave me a warm welcome and directed me to the great hall where a great buffet was held. I took in the beautiful surroundings with a glass OJ (vino also on offer) and nibbles before heading into the beautiful Pugin Chapel (Augustus Pugin went on to work on the architecture of the Houses of Lords and Commons, he was that good!).

Pugin Chapel at Bilton Grange Fiori Musicali

With no seats left spare, the attraction of Fiori was obvious, the audience eagerly awaiting the performance to come. I really got the feeling that it was going to be a brilliant evening. I wasn’t disappointed.

The instrumentalists* walking in to the sound of great applause and what immediately struck me was the presence of the musicians, how they gently moved along with each piece independently whilst being totally in sync with each other. They really seemed to enjoy their work. I feel that it definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the evening, seeing how the players appreciated what they were doing.

Being HIP

I’ve developed a love of history over the years so it was brilliant that director Penelope spoke of the time surrounding the creation of the music. I knew that Fiori’s performances were HIP (historically informed performance) but experiencing it first hand was fantastic. I learnt quite a bit and it really gave the evening an edge.

Penelope Rapson Fiori Musicali Bilton Grange

Previously I had no clue that Vivaldi was unknown until very recently, around 1939 in fact. Apparently Handel enthusiasts found some of Vivaldi’s manuscripts, believing Handel to be the original, inspiring artist. Yet they soon realised that Handel was inspired by Vivaldi and not the other way around.

It’s crazy to think that my great grand-parents wouldn’t have known of Vivaldi! I’d say that most people nowadays know his name at least, whether you know what he did or not, wouldn’t you think?

Stain glass windows Bilton Grange Fiori Musicali performance

Did you know that you don’t clap after every piece of music? I didn’t! I went to applaud after the first piece of music but stopped myself in time.  The lady next to me gestured towards the programme. She said something about there being three movements with a tone that suggested I should wait until then. Oops, my bad!

How she knew how many movements there were I don’t know (I searched the programme) but we’ll look into that another time.

I asked another audience member to write a few lines about his impression of the concert:

One of the highlights of the concert was the fact that it was interspersed with director, Dr. Penelope Rapson’s talks which introduced each composition accompanied by its context. It was useful to visualise the original historical, social and political environments in which the sonatas would have been originally composed. The odd quirky narrative behind  Vivaldi’s compositions really drew the audience into the personal aspects behind the music, making musical idols appear more human, and offering a far more vivid context than a mere chronological or factual account.

Dr. Rapson has the unique ability to not only weave wit and humour into her educational talks, but is also sensitive to the diversity of her audience, using phrase like, “For those, I’m sure who know..”, as not to patronise the classical music connoisseurs in the audience. Then, she is able to adopt a warm and enthusiastic tone for those who are perhaps first time attendees at a classical music concert. She did not alienate any sector of the audience and demonstrated to new members that classical and baroque music are not elitist or reserved for the upper and highly educated classes – on the contrary, she made them and the renaissance not only accessible but relevant to all. 

A great evening had by all,


*Heidi Fardell – recorders, Amanda Babington – recorders and violin, Gail Hennessy – oboe and Sally Holman – bassoon, not forgetting director Penelope Rapson on the harpsichord.