“Esperar, Sentir, Morir”, Le Poème Harmonique, Wigmore Hall, 26 March 2016

 

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By the standards of a wet Easter Saturday, the day had been quite sporty and exciting. Daisy and I played tennis, despite the shocking weather – the rain holding off long enough for us to get our game in, merely through gloom and howling winds. Then we stopped off in Ealing to buy some sports kit supplies “while stocks last”. Later, we watched England play Sri Lanka in a must-win game of the World T20, which England did in the end win, but not without a scare or two.

As the drizzle and high winds turned to heavy rain and near-hurricane, we agreed that we would have abandoned a lesser outing, such as a trip to the movies. But we were very much looking forward to seeing Le Poème Harmonique at the Wigmore Hall, so it would take more than wind and piss to keep us from tonight’s gig.

It’s ages since I gave business to the Wigmore Hall CD stand, as it is usually a better idea to sample and purchase downloads of music in the comfort of one’s own home. But on this occasion we got to the hall well early (unnecessarily allowing extra time for the inclement weather ) and I wanted to read more than was in the programme as well as hear some more later, so I bought a couple of CDs:

The first is early Spanish baroque, much based on folk music, quite similar to some of the stuff we were due to hear. I’m listening to the delightful Briceño as I type.

The second is later French baroque, unconnected with tonight’s concert but a recent recording by this ensemble and should be home turf for them. It is incredibly beautiful music, wonderfully rendered by this troupe on this recording.

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It came as no surprise to run into my friend from the gym Eric Rhode and his wife Maria, forming part of our baroque concert front row Mafia.

It was a wonderful concert; incredibly accomplished musicians all. Claire Lefilliâtre has a wonderful soprano voice, well-accustomed and suited to baroque singing. Mira Glodeanu is a baroque violin specialist; I’m sure we have seen her before with other ensembles.

The concert was a mixture of Spanish and Italian baroque blending “street dance music”, such as it was back then, with courtly song music. The title of the concert, “Esperar, Sentir, Morir”, means “To Hope, To Feel, To Die” and is the title of the “closing number”. There were three encores after the closing number, but you know what I mean.

For the courtly music, leader Vincent Dumestre deploys his theorbo, but for the “street” numbers, he plays a beautiful looking and sounding baroque guitar. The bass viol player, Lucas Peres, plays the bass viol “on his lap, guitar style” for some of the jauntier numbers. The bass viol is about the size of a cello. The invention of bass guitar must have come as a massive relief to jaunty bass viol players everywhere.

But it is percussionist, Joël Grare, (or as he describes himself, “self-taught child of rock and drummer-percussionist”) who hogs the limelight in the raunchier numbers. He has an extensive collection of percussive toys on the stage, together with a baroque drum being kept warm on an electric blanket. His percussion is a mixture of sound and movement – some of his castanet interludes included some sort of baroque tap-dancing. For one song, he and the soprano briefly engaged in some flamenco/tango style interactions. Joel deploys puckish head movements and facial expressions as he moves around and percusses.

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Checking out Grare the next day, I came across the album Grare: Paris – Istanbul – Shanghai, which I downloaded after a tiny sample and which Daisy and I have already enjoyed hearing several times. It is quite extraordinary fusion music and is absolutely delightful listening. I’m sure we’ll be listening to this relaxing music for many years to come.

So, not a cheap date in the end, but it was an exceptionally good one.

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