Finns Ain’t What they Used To Be, Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, Wigmore Hall, 6 January 2018

OK, this baroque concert didn’t really have that dreadful pun as its title – but it did have a tongue-in cheek humour to it, certainly in the first half, which was dedicated to Telemann’s work.

Here is a link to the programme and basic information from the Wigmore Hall site.

Both of the Telemann pieces are relative rarities, new to the ears even of Telemaniacs like me and Janie:

  • Ouverture burlesque in B flat major TWV55:B8
  • Trauer-Music eines kunsterfahrenen Canarienvogels (Canary Cantata) TWV20:37

The Helsinki Baroque is a very together orchestra; seemingly a group of dedicated musicians who enjoy playing with and riffing off each other. We suspect that Aapo Häkkinen is metaphorically “gentle yet strong glue” for this Finnish combo.

Carolyn Sampson was the soprano for the evening. She stood right in front of us and sang magnificently.

The Canary Cantata – in full “Cantata of Funeral Music For An Artistically-Trained Canary Whose Demise Brought the Greatest Sorrow to his Master”, really is a most unusual piece.

Click here (or the embedded YouTube below) for a recording of a young American soprano, MaryRuth Lown, singing the piece;

My so-called friends who thought my German singing sounded like Yiddish in my Innsbruck Ich Muss Dich Lassen performance the other week should click through and hear this aria.

Gresham Society Soirée, Barnards Inn Hall, 14 December 2017

It begins with the following line oft-repeated:

O weh! mein Canarin ist tot

…which means, for those who need a translation into lingua franca…

Oy vay! in drerd mein feygele.

…but I’m diving too deep into detail. Actually if you want to read the whole cantata in English, click through the YouTube link above (not the embedded vid) as a full translation is there on YouTube. Weirdorama lyrics.

The second half of the concert was more “regular” in terms of familiarity and style, but still hugely interesting and enjoyable. J S Bach for this half:

  • Concerto in D major for harpsichord BWV1054 (from Violin Concerto in E major BWV1042)
  • Cantata: Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen BWV51

I don’t think I had heard that concerto with the harpsichord as lead instrument before; I have recordings of it on violin and piano.

The cantata was spectacularly good; Carolyn Sampson on top form, as was Nicholas Emmerson on baroque trumpet, going red in the face trying to get such a complex string of notes out at pace on that challenging instrument.

The encore was a complete change of mood, from the jubilant Bach “Jauchzet Gott” cantata to the mournful Handel “Eternal Source Of Light Divine” cantata.

The encore was also a triumph; albeit a calming one rather than an uplifting one. Here is a YouTube of Iestyn Davies singing it:

All in all, it was a wonderful gig; a delicious start to the year for our concert going.

I cannot find a YouTube of Carolyn Sampson with the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, nor of that orchestra performing any of the pieces we heard, but the following YouTube gives a feel for that orchestra’s work at that scale (16 or so members) on a work of that period with a fine soprano…

…while the following is a YouTube of Carolyn Sampson with a different super orchestra – The Sixteen:

Catharsis, Xavier Sabata, Armonia Atenea & George Petrou, Wigmore Hall, 9 October 2017

Our Daisy is partial to a bit of countertenor singing and this Wigmore Hall concert looked a bit different and interesting, so I booked it.

We quite like Monday night concerts at The Wig, not least because they are a darned good excuse (not that we need excuses) to take a Monday off.

Goodness knows where the Monday went…indeed where the whole weekend went, but there you go.

Here is a link to the Wigmore Hall resource on the concert.

It started with a rather jazzed up version of one of Vivaldi’s well-known concerti. We thought the whole concert might be jazzed up, but in truth only that first piece was.

Then enter the countertenor, Xavier Sabata, who is a rather big and fearsome looking chap. Very dramatic delivery style. Wonderful voice.

The ensemble is Greek, of course, but Xavier Sabata is Catalan. He looked as though he might make a unilateral declaration of independence any moment and frankly no-one in the hall looked able to stop him if he were to do so.

Daisy got the sense that the ensemble were not in the best of moods, either with each other or their situation. That certainly didn’t reflect in their playing, which was excellent. Perhaps it was the multiple encores at the end that bothered them and left Daisy with that sense; George and Xavier might well have gone on for an extra half hour were it not for the Wigmore Hall aficionados calling time after the second encore.

It turns out that this line-up has recently recorded an album named Catharsis, basically a collection of these full-tilt countertenor arias.

Here (or the image) links to Catharsis on Amazon – other retailers are available.

Much as we very much enjoyed the concert, we weren’t motivated to buy the album, but it would be a good way to hear what this beautiful music sounds like if you weren’t at the concert.

Erica Jeal in the Guardian reviewed the album – here.

David Vickers reviewed the album in Gramaphone – here.

Barry Creasy on gave the concert a superb review – here.

We ate light after the concert, back at the flat; open smoked salmon sandwiches and a very jolly bottle of Austrian Riesling. Nothing baroque about the supper…unlike the delicious concert.

After Z/Yen Board Meeting Lunchtime Concert, City of London Sinfonia, St Andrew Holborn, 25 March 2015

We probably should have a corporate rule that every board meeting should conclude with a lunchtime concert.

But in reality this sort of thing is a rare treat for us…but treat this was indeed.

Michael had spotted this one, no doubt through some aldermanic connection, so not only did we get to listen to the delicious music but we got to eat some of the delicious food for honoured guests afterwards and network a while.

I like Handel’s concerto grossi and we got two of them in this concert. The sandwich filling was some Arvo Pärt of the listenable variety.

It was all very pleasant indeed.

Two Fabulous Baroque Concerts And A Dinner At St John’s Smith Square, 23 May 2014

Both of these concerts, part of the Lufthansa Festival Of Baroque Music that year, looked superb.

For reasons of my own (work related) I had tried the more formal dining option at SJSS a couple of times by then and thought Janie would enjoy such a meal too. Turned out (as I suspected) the restaurant was all geared up for people who wanted to see the two concerts and dine in-between.

Here’s the splurge on first concert;

We hadn’t seen La Risonanza before, although we had, I think, seen Fabio Bonizzoni – at least I have his wonderful recording of the last Domenico Scarlatti sonatas.

It was a good concert, although I recall we liked the sonatas more than the duets. Not a comment on the skills of the singers, they were excellent, but the style of those baroque duets don’t tend to please us, we discovered.

We both enjoyed our dinner; very attentively and well fed we were. In many ways the SJSS dining-crypt has more atmosphere than the SJSS concert hall itself, which can seem rather large and cold at times.

But the highlight of the evening was this last chance to see The Hilliard Ensemble perform Morimur live. I had owned and enjoyed the magnificent recording of Morimur for some years by then and was delighted to have a chance to see that composite work performed live:

William Cole, on the Interlude blog, describes the Morimur concert that evening thus:

…the Hilliard Ensemble with violinist Kati Debretzeni gave quite simply one of the most extraordinary concerts I have ever attended.

Here is a link to the whole William Cole review.

Talk about going out on a high. By that December, the Hilliard Ensemble was done saying its goodbyes to the world and that (un-Sinatra-like) was that.

Of course it is still possible to get the recording of Morimur – click here for a link to general resources on it or the image below for one specific link – I would highly commend the recording.

We still listen to Morimur quite a lot – its haunting quality is just so moving. The alternating of chorale and violin music just least it does for us.

As for that Baroque evening at SJSS – very memorable indeed.

Handel’s 1710: Venice – Hanover – London, London Handel Orchestra, Wigmore Hall, 28 March 2010

A lovely Sunday evening concert at The Wigmore Hall.

Handel was the focus but it included works by some lesser-known characters from that late Baroque period: Agostino Steffani, Francesco Venturini and Nicola Haym.

No, me neither, hence links provided.

The concert was part of that year’s London Handel Festival. I have saved the brochure from the web – here.

Anyway, the music was lovely and as always we found an evening of music at The Wig a most relaxing way to round off a weekend.

The Beggar’s Opera: Reborn, Reverb: Roundhouse, 25 January 2010

This was the second Reverb: Roundhouse concert we went to over a long weekend in January – we took that Monday off work.

This one didn’t wow us quite as much as the Joanna MacGregor one on the Saturday, but still we really enjoyed it.

In many ways this one was more star-studded, with Charles Hazlewood, Adrian Utley from Portishead, Charlie Jones from Goldfrapp and both of the Unthank sisters to thank.

It was an interesting idea to set The Beggar’s Opera with folk tunes and baroque music from Purcell and Handel. It succeeded in its own way, but perhaps, to my mind, Brecht/Weill have taken that work as far as it can go down the fusion line.

We were thirsty for more of this sort of thing at the Roundhouse, but have not since (writing in 2017) seen quite such inspired-looking programmes at that venue. Which is a shame, as we really like the place.

Still, this evening rounded off a long weekend well, at the Roundhouse

Famous Castrati Arias for Senesino and his Rivals, Wigmore Hall, 27 March 2009

Say what you like about Daisy, but she does like a nice bit of castrati.

So we made a second visit to the Wigmore Hall that month (a busy start there in 2009 generally in fact) to see this lovely concert, with Daniel Taylor providing the counter-tenor equivalent of castrati singing and Rachel Brown providing beautiful flute and recorder performances.

I found an excellent review by Robert Hugill – click here – which says plenty, including even an account of the encore.

Here’s what we saw:

The King’s Consort, Bach and Vivaldi Violin Concertos, Wigmore Hall, 31 December 2007

Kings Consort 31 Dec 2007

We’d made a bit of a tradition of going to the new years eve concert at the Wigmore Hall and see in the new year quietly at the flat if we liked the look of the concert. We certainly liked the look of this one when we booked it, many months before.

Between us booking it and the concert date, Robert King of the eponymous King’s Consort was jailed for indecent assault. Unaccustomed as we were to such occurrences in our favourite baroque ensembles, we wondered what might happen to our concert. It turned out that Matthew halls, the harpsichordist, took over as the director temporarily and would lead our concert.

It all felt a bit odd and of course the programme was silent on the matter of Robert King’s absence, but still it was a good concert if I recall correctly. I can’t find any reviews and the Wigmore Hall archive stubs don’t go back that far. But they are a very accomplished group of musicians and they attract some top notch soloists, so the quality of the performances wasn’t really a surprise.

La Risonanza, St John’s Smith Square, 11 May 2007

Just two days after our last visit to the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, we’re back to see another.  Janie is a sucker for a countertenor and we are both suckers for visiting European baroque troupes we haven’t heard before.

Typically of SJSS and its artistes, the fabulously-named Fabio Bonizzoni can only sell us recordings of the Scarlatti stuff we heard performed by other people a couple of days ago.

Still, I buy that CD and some other La Risonanza stuff.  We were neither disappointed by the concert nor by the CDs.

Fabio and La Risonanza rock.  Guest singers Roberta Invernizzi, Emanuela Galli, Xavier Sabata also rock.

Well, they don’t rock, let’s be honest, they are baroque musicians, none of them rock.  But this was a really enjoyable concert.

Here’s the stuff they played us that night:

La Risonanza 11 May 2007