Melbourne is rather underdone for Baroque music, particularly of the operatic kind. So no surprise this showcase of exceptional local talent and the era’s majestic sound was warmly received.

The absence of concerts by Sydney’s Pinchgut Opera in this city in 2024 is keenly felt by Baroque lovers, but that renowned company’s Artistic Director is filling the breach as Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Artist in Residence. Erin Helyard has conjured the orchestra’s Baroque Festival, a season of four one-off concerts including Handel and Vivaldi Arias.

He led a Baroque-style, slimmed-down MSO for this 90-minute concert, which opened with Vivaldi’s Concerto in D. The first of three concerti in between arias performed by British-Australian soprano Samantha Clarke, it was notable for the delicacy of their interpretation – which was often apparent during this concert. Concertmaster Zoë Black immediately made her mark; her solo in the second movement was particularly evocative.

Erin Helyard. Photo @ MSO

Later, in Handel’s Concerto grosso in B-flat, Rachael Tobin and Michelle Wood offered a cello duet of lovely warmth and interplay, before being joined by Emmanuel Cassimatis’s oboe. A heavenly trio.

Helyard directed this concert from behind an...