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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

Florid Sentiments: Instruments of Time and Truth


Review: Instruments of Time and Truth Summer Concert Series, at Christ Church Cathedral, from 28 June - 2 August 2022. Tickets £15, Concessions available, Free to under 26s. Book tickets here.

[Disclosure: IT&T provided me with a ticket to this concert for the purposes of this review.]

Florid Sentiments was the penultimate concert in Oxford’s Baroque instrumental group, Instruments of Time and Truth’s summer series of concerts. In this concert, five soloist musicians came together and created pure magic.

The beautiful harpsichord, played by Steven Grahl. I took this photo just after the concert.

The programme, featuring Handel’s (1685-1759) chamber arias – felt utterly luxurious. To me, Handel’s music has always felt opulent and during Handel’s lifetime, his music was considered the appropriate accompaniment to the lifestyles of wealthy aristocrats, including the British royal family.

Harpsichord detail. I took this photo just after the concert.

Handel composed both for the most magnificent occasions, as well as for the ultimate in exclusive parties – private concerts performed in the houses of the aristocracy. It is these latter pieces that featured in IT&T’s Florid Sentiments concert, as well as some arias from Handel’s opera Rinaldo.

The musicians at rehearsal, earlier in the day. From left to right, Frances Norbury on oboe, Steven Grahl on harpsichord, Jean Paterson on violin, soprano Lucy Cox and Imogen Seth Smith on cello.

What an extraordinary experience it was to hear these beautiful arias sung by the exceptionally talented soprano Lucy Cox, whose angelic voice ascended to the heights of the Cathedral’s ceiling. Cox has one of the most beautiful, pure soprano voices I’ve ever heard live.

Harpsichord. I took this photo just after the concert.

There were many moments of pure magic in this concert – such as the playful duet between the soprano and the oboe, played by Frances Norbury, in the aria Combatti de forte (fight vigorously) from Rinaldo. There were also moments of absolute beauty, such as the opening bars of the heart rending Lascia la spine (Keep the thorn).

Violinist, Jean Paterson, at rehearsal earlier in the day.

The Handel pieces were interspersed with Corelli’s (1663-1713) Violin Sonata III in C major – reflecting the Corelli craze that happened during Handel’s tenure in England. Virtuoso violinist Jean Paterson’s playing was utterly gorgeous – subtle, elegant and restrained. Paterson’s absolute mastery of her instrument allowed her to place as much importance on the spaces between the notes, as on the notes themselves – giving the piece a feeling of spaciousness that isn’t normally available to live audiences. It’s rare to hear musicianship, live, at this level.

Oboist, Frances Norbury, soprano, Lucy Cox and cellist Imogen Seth Smith.

The Florid Sentiments concert is what happens when five soloist musicians bring the most proficient musicianship together, and create without ego. This was one of the most beautiful concerts I’ve heard in the past five years and it will live in my memory for a long time.


If you enjoyed reading about the beautiful music in this concert, you might enjoy reading about the other concerts in this series, in last year's Summer Concert Series and my other posts about music.

Except as otherwise stated, all photos provided to me by Instruments of Time and Truth.


Square Stage
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