Out of the Deep, The Cardinall’s Musick, Wigmore Hall, 18 July 2017

The Boy (Morales) From Seville

Janie and I really like this sort of 16th century music and here was a rare chance to listen to Cristóbal de Morales’s requiem, along with a swathe of English stuff from a similar period.

Morales was from Seville although his sound is heavily influenced by his years in Rome too.

Here is a link to the Wigmore Hall’s information on the gig.

Jolly it wasn’t, but then what do you expect when you choose to hear requiem masses, Jeremiah’s lamentations and that sort of thing?

But very beautiful it was.

I especially enjoyed the Morales, which was the main reason I booked the concert. We hear quite a lot of the 16th century English stuff, whereas the Morales felt like a rare treat.

This type of music (mostly 10 voices in five parts) works so well in the Wigmore Hall and The Cardinall’s Musick are really superb at delivering this stuff. Andrew Carwood always explains the context in detail, but not painful detail.

The audience lapped it all up and managed to coax the team back onto the pitch for an encore – I think it was the first two verses from Tallis’s Psalm 1 setting.

It was a Tuesday evening and Janie had early patients etc. the next day, so we didn’t dine together – I think Janie got home just before the heavens opened. Good job I was in the flat when the rains came – it was torrential and I had left windows open. There’d have been Jeremiah-style lamentations from me if my computer and/or baroq-ulele had got wet.

Dinosaur, Wigmore Hall Lates, 14 July 2017

“Hello, we’re a couple of Dinosaurs”, I said, as we arrived at the Wigmore Hall for the late night concert.  The programme notes distributor smiled; perhaps a knowing smile – she probably thinks of all of us Wigmore Hall-istas as dinosaurs.

Wigmore Hall, like Lord’s, is one of the very few places in the world where I might still be addressed as “young man”.

But this was quite a youthful concert – a young jazz combo, Dinosaur,  playing an interesting mix of styles, a bit jazz-blues-rocky, a bit avant-garde, a bit electric.

The Wigmore Hall information had revealed little about them – click here –  but we like these late night concerts and I sampled a bit of Dinosaur on-line and liked the sound. I think I might have sampled the following piece:

This type of music works better live than recorded, in our view. It certainly did work well at the Wigmore Hall.

Laura Jurd seemed genuinely awe-inspired by playing at the Wig, which was rather sweet. Dinosaur played several tracks from their acclaimed first album plus one or two bits of new material.

They are all genuinely talented musicians.

The bass player played acoustic double bass as well as an electric bass guitar – an unusual-looking five-course jobbie rather than the conventional four course instrument shown in the above vid.

Before the  concert, I served dinner at the flat; the very last of Big Al DeLarge’s meatballs with pasta and salad. We also had time for a drink at The Wig before the concert.

We stayed for an after concert drink and some more jazz in the bar – simply a pianist playing in a hotel lobby or restaurant style (second time in a row), rather than the more unusual/interesting stuff we got in earlier years after Wigmore Hall Lates – oh well.

Avital Meets Avital, Wigmore Hall Lates, 23 June 2017

Avital Meets Avital

We really like these Wigmore Lates concerts and we really like interesting jazz/fusion music at the Wig.

So when I saw this concert promoted in the Wigmore Hall brochure – click here for all the information retained on the site – I figured that it would almost certainly be right up our street.

…Moroccan and North African sounds, folk and classical traditions, Israeli harmonies and Mediterranean rhythms to create a musical melting pot…

How right I was.

I hadn’t worked out, from that promotional material, that “Avital Meets Avital” is a relatively new combo, nor did it cross my mind that the two Avitals might not be connected to each other by blood. They just happen to be two musical guys who share the same surname who discovered that they make great music together and formed a fine musical friendship and combo.

The tour seems to be a promotional one, in part to promote their album, which was released a couple of weeks ago – click here (or the picture above) for more details on that.

The concert was wonderful.

The hall was pretty crowded, considering that the combo is fairly new and the Friday late slot does not always do well unless the act is well-known/a local favourite.

The group’s love of music and music-making together came across very nicely. In particular, Omer Avital (right of picture) came across as a real fun-loving showman – but in a good way. Janie is often put off by flamboyant musicians, but this was just the right balance of joyous music making, sharing that joy with the audience, yet relentlessly high-quality, professional musicianship.

Indeed all four of them are superb musicians.

Avi Avital must be one of the leading virtuosi of the mandolin – some of the intricate work he was doing, especially on the smaller of the two mandolins he played, was spellbinding.

The pianist, Yonathan Avishai, was mostly playing (in effect) continuo, but when he got the opportunity to extemporise with a solo, his ability as a musician became very clear.

The drummer, Itamar Doari, looked as mad as a box of frogs (or at least on a different cerebral  planet) when he played – it was a wonder he didn’t spontaneously combust Spinal Tap style during his solos. Strangely though, in the bar afterwards, he looked surprisingly sane and normal.

There was a good vibe in the bar after the show, with a jazz pianist playing. It was good to see all four performers (as well as a reasonable chunk of the audience) joining in the post concert fun – that doesn’t always happen after these Wigmore Lates concerts.

I downloaded the Avital Meets Avital album as soon as we got home and we have listened to it several times over the past few days. I would recommend the album highly, but would also suggest that you get to see this combo live if you can – the recordings cannot quite do justice to the uplifting sense you get from seeing this combo perform live.

Biber, Buxtehude, Schmelzer and Kühnel, Arcangelo, Wigmore Hall, 5 May 2017

We like these “Wigmore Late” concerts at 22:00 on a Friday evening. With the flat so close to “The Wig”, we can enjoy a home cooked meal and mosey on down at leisure.

Sometimes too much at leisure – we have on occasions relaxed into the evening so much that we’ve suddenly realised that we need to get a shift on…

…but not this evening.

For those readers who simply want to know what we saw – here is a link to the Wigmore Hall stub on this delicious concert. Those who want to know more, including information on the delicious food, read on.

As I have a freezer drawer full of (now lamented) Big Al’s wonderful pasta sauces from Tavola, we had a pasta supper (Al’s amazing veal and spinach meatballs in tomato sauce, with tagliatelle) before heading off in good time to The Wig.

We recognised most/all of the Arcangelo performers, although I don’t think we have seen Arcangelo as an ensemble before. For sure we had seen Jonathan Manson, the viola da gamba player, before, not least in a lovely 2009 concert I wrote up only a couple of weeks ago.

We had also recently seen and very much noticed the young theorbo player, Thomas Dunford, with Les Arts Florissants, which I wrote up – here.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence – with thanks – http://collection.sciencemuseum.org.uk/objects/co5900/theorbo

Yes, I know that the Wigmore Hall stub (and programme) suggests that Thomas Dunford was playing a lute, but believe me, it was a theorbo.

Indeed, having had my very first baroq-ulele lesson with Ian Pittaway on Wednesday, I was studying Dunford’s work like a connoisseur. A mixture of thumb-inside and thumb-outside playing, with some trill and rasgueado-looking stuff thrown in. Not sure he quite anchors his hand comprehensively, but then that would make playing the whole range of strings on a theorbo a lit of a challenge.

I also found myself fascinated by Dunford’s instrument straps; one for the shoulder (as recommended and now work in progress for my baroq-ulele), but also an additional one upon which he sits for extra support.

Mercifully, I didn’t let all of that geeky stuff detract from my enjoyment of the wonderful music.

The leader, Jonathan Cohen, introduced and discussed the pieces/composers masterfully. He isn’t a charismatic showman, but he comes across as very knowledgeable, very pleasant and inclusive of the other performers, which Janie and I liked. At one point, for example, he invited Sophie Gent to explain the techniques she was using to embellish the relatively simple parts that composers wrote down in that earlier baroque period. She explained herself very well.

Ahead of the Kühnel sonata, Jonathan Manson showed us the detailed craftsmanship of his viola da gamba. He explained that August Kühnel spent some time in England to study music around the time that Manson’s viola da gamba was being made, so Kühnel might have actually seen that beautiful instrument being crafted.

The music in this concert was very beautiful. I liked all of it, but found the Schmelzer sonatae especially appealing and moving; so much so that I plan to invest in a decent recording of them – perhaps the one linked here – advice in the next few days would be appreciated.

After the concert, the Wigmore Hall had arranged for some jazz in the bar, as they have done in the past but they had (or have not yet) not promoted that idea yet this season. Unsurprisingly, very few people stuck around, but we did, enjoying some 1950’s style jazz piano over a glass.

Janie and I were pleased to see the Arcangelo performers all supporting that jazz initiative after their gig. It also gave us a chance to congratulate Jonathan Cohen in person.

Arcangelo is a relatively new, young early music group; they are very talented and they deserve to do well. For sure, we’ll be looking out for them again.

Ensemble Plus Ultra, Wigmore Hall, 10 April 2017

A very pleasant way to end a long weekend.

Daisy and I both like a bit of Spanish Renaissance music. We’re familiar with the music of Victoria, but Alonso Lobo and Alonso de Tejeda were new to us, so we thought we should give this a go.

Ensemble Plus Ultra were also new to us and indeed new to the Wigmore Hall. Sadly, they were only able to sell a couple of hundred seats on a Monday evening, which was a shame.

Very good singers, but perhaps lacking charisma as a troupe, it transpires that Ensemble Plus Ultra have been around for ages – click here. They know their Spanish Renaissance, though, especially Victoria. The spokesman explained stuff in the first half (Victoria), but left us entirely on our own in the second half.

The concert was mostly lamentable…sorry, I mean lamentations. Not cheerful words, no, no, no. But you don’t really need to follow along the words, you can just sit and listen to the sublime sound of the voices, which is mostly what we did.

Click here to see precisely what they did at the Wig that evening.

Daisy commented that the audience was a particularly  Englishy-churchy looking bunch. What else she expected at a Spanish Renaissance sacred music concert on the Monday of holy week, I have really no idea.

Anyway, the gentle, beautiful music was just what the doctor had ordered for us that evening.

The Tallis Scholars: Isaac and Mouton, Wigmore Hall, 9 March 2017

Been going a very long time

Heinrich Isaac died 500 years ago this month. Peter Phillips and The Tallis Scholars have been around for most of that time…

…OK, not really, but they have been around since the mid 1970s, which is one heck of a long time. What a superb and professional troupe they are.

The concert was billed as being Isaac and Mouton, but in truth it was almost all about Isaac.

Here is a link to the Wigmore Hall resource for the concert we saw/heard. The centrepiece of the first half of the concert was Isaac’s wonderful Missa de apostolis. The second half had more, shorter works; motets, including one by Mouton but the rest all by Isaac.

We spotted Michael Heseltine in the audience a few rows behind us, when we returned from the interval. A bit of a coincidence, as Janie was seeing Angela the next day; Angela was Hesser’s right hand person, back in the day.

We’ve seen The Tallis Scholars before and I have a few of their recordings of Renaissance and Early Baroque music: Brumel, Gombert and Taverner, all excellent. Indeed we listened to this Taverner one – click here – when we got home. 

But before getting home we were treated to a delightful encore of Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen, a choral work attributed to (and probably the best known work of) Isaac. It was one of the greatest hits of the Renaissance. In truth, Isaac almost certainly didn’t write the words and possibly didn’t even write the music. But Isaac did live in Innsbruck at one time and did leave the place, perhaps in sorrow as suggested by the song, c1485. That was around the same time as, in Blighty,  Dick The Shit was feeding worms underneath a forthcoming Leicestershire car park and the Tudor era was just kicking off.

We’re talking nearly 100 years ahead of Greensleeves publication, so Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen might well have been at Number One in the Renaissance charts for some 5000 weeks.

In these circumstances, it seemed only sensible for me to get my head around the words, chords and music – click here.

I’ve been working on that lovely song periodically since. It’ll go down an absolute storm on my baroq-ulele. I’m nowhere near as adept as The Tallis Scholars, needless to say, but they are nowhere near as Baroque-and-roll as me.  You never know, my version might just be the summer hit sensation of 2017.

Here are the King’s Singers giving it a go:

 

 

Richard Egarr, Wigmore Hall Lunchtime Concert, 9 January 2017

From the ridiculous to the sublime. A delightful concert of early music. Richard Egarr on the harpsichord with English music spanning the late 16th to late 17th century; Byrd, Purcell and Blow.

After our ill-fated Friday evening of avant-garde jazz, from a doyen of the free (or in this case BOGOF – buy one get one free) jazz movement – click here – the Richard Egarr was to be just the ticket.

There was one small problem though; a tube strike. In the interests of practicality and sanity, I put my principled doubts about Uber to one side, down-loaded the app and organised transport through Uber.  The transport only cost a little more than the concert tickets that way.

But we got there and I’m so glad we went.

Once we were at the Wigmore Hall, the music transported us to a happy place without any difficulty.

This was the first Radio 3 Lunchtime concert of the year at the Wigmore Hall. Sara Mohr-Pietsch came on the stage to explain how it works to the live audience and started her little spiel by saying, “hello and good afternoon to both of you”, seeming to address the remark to me and Daisy in the front row.

Perhaps she realised what an effort we in particular had made to get from W3 to W1 on a strike day. Seriously, the hall was pretty much full, so I suppose Sara meant to say “all of you”. Her spiel got better after that.

The audience doesn’t get to hear her radio introductions, so I struggled to work out exactly which piece was which and exactly when Richard Egarr’s short breaks were taking place, until I listened again again on iPlayer.

Which reminds me to tell you, if you get to this Ogblog article quickly enough, you don’t have to take our word for it how lovely this concert sounded.

It is to be rebroadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 15 January 2017 at 13:00, or you can catch it on the iPlayer radio thingie – for another three or four weeks – click here or below. At the very least you should be able to get more information about the concert on these links even if you miss the 30 day licence window to listen in.

 

 

 

A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke, Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith, Wigmore Hall, 6 January 2017

A little knowledge/research can be a dangerous thing, when exploring a field in which you lack expertise. I realise that, in our post-truth, post-expert society, that statement is controversial, but here is a cautionary tale to prove my point.

Many months ago, when I read in the Wigmore Hall brochure that Vijay Iyer was to be the next artist to hold the Jazz residency at the venue, I read his mini CV in the brochure and Googled him. I thought; “looks diverse and interesting; let’s book his first Wigmore Hall concert and see if we like it”.

What I didn’t do was look more closely at the spec. for that first concert and think about whether that particular concert would be to our taste.

Roll the clock forward until lunchtime on the day of the concert itself. I had just finished playing real tennis, having been taught a lesson by one of the better players that my modest improvement in the last few months – click here – was, at best, modest.

I called Janie, wondering why she hadn’t even read the Whatsapp message I sent her about this evening’s arrangements. She was clearly in a stressy mood. “I’m so frustrated with my morning. I can’t get hold of anybody. I have wasted so much time. I’m starting to really stress about getting to the flat on time for the concert this evening…”

There was no point prolonging such a call.

By the time Janie was sufficiently unstressy to call me back to try and finalise the arrangements, I was all stressy because, as I said to her, “I need to wrap up warm and leave the house in five minutes to get to the doctors’ surgery on time for my jabs”.

“You’re not having jabs,” said Janie, “you are having one jab. Jab, singular. No-one but no-one makes as much fuss about having one jab as you do.”

Well, actually, that’s not what the new practice Nurse, Liz, said to me a few minutes later.

I apologised to Nurse Liz on arrival for being a big baby and she said, “just don’t look at me”, then distracted me momentarily while she did the job. “That was easy enough”, said Liz.

I explained to Liz that my mother had an anecdote about me, which she used to tell all-too regularly. When I was very small, on one occasion the doctor and my parents had to chase me around the house ahead of one of my jabs, only for one of my parents (probably mum) to pin me down under the dining room table, allowing the doctor to get down on her hands and knees to vaccinate me right there.

“The NHS was a truly community, personalised service back then, eh?” I said. Nurse Liz laughed and said that she’s had to chase a fair few people around her surgery room in her time too.

In the end Janie got to the flat in good time and I had almost calmed down from the ordeal of my jabs…sorry, I mean jab.

We got to the Wigmore Hall in good time. Despite the stresses of the day, neither of us wanted a glass of wine before the concert – we both had juice. Surely the music would be our de-stressing therapy.

We sat in our seats, where an enormous, beaten-up looking electronic keyboard instrument/speaker was blocking our view of the Wigmore Hall’s exquisite Steinway. Janie tackled a poor unsuspecting young steward on this point, only to be rebutted.

Then Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith emerged. Vijay switched on his electronic instrument, which made a loud hum which reminded me of my father’s old Grundig TK35 reel-to-reel tape recorder, which I loved dearly (the machine, not the hum). I always attributed that hum to the thermionic valves within the machine.

Grundig TK35, ram-packed with thermionic valves. Photograph by Michael Keller, from Rad-io.de.

But I digress.

Then the so-called music started. Not least the screechy sounds produced by Wadada Leo Smith on his trumpet.

You see, the bit I hadn’t researched properly before choosing the concert was the other half of the pairing for this gig. Had I done so, I’d have learned that:

Wadada Leo Smith is an American trumpeter and composer, working primarily in the fields of avant-garde jazz and free improvisation…

Janie and I have had previous experience of the free jazz movement – click here if you want a good laugh – Cecil Taylor Quartet featuring Anthony Braxton, supported by Polar Bear, Royal Festival Hall, 8 July 2007.

I guess the pairing of Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith is not entirely “free jazz”, more like BOGOF – “buy one get one free” jazz.

Anyway, that noise was not going to calm us down and make us feel relaxed for the weekend.

Worse – unlike our experience at the Festival Hall nearly 10 years ago, tonight’s concert was primarily a one piece wonder (80 minutes or so) and we were sitting front row central, so the type of early escape we had managed from the Festival Hall in 2007 was out of the question without being rude and disturbing to other punters.

Neither of us were in the best of moods when we left after two encores and some unintelligible speechifying, which put a proverbial cherry on top of our concert experience.

We consoled ourselves with some delicious Persian food from Mohsen and some more soothing music back home as we ate.

I broke it gently to Janie that there were tube strikes planned for Monday, so we would need carefully to plan our trip to the lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall that day.

“Who are we seeing Monday lunchtime?”, asked Janie.

“A solo recital,” I said, “I believe it is the trumpeter from this evening.”

“YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN”, hollered Janie.

That was a poor choice of joke for that moment. Actually we’re seeing a harpsichord recital, which should be lovely.

We know a lot more about early music; we didn’t need research or third party expertise to choose that one.

Old And New Music From The Ends Of the Silk Route, Wigmore Hall, 2 December 2016

wigmore-2-dec-16

This was a wonderful concert.

It was supposed to include the Uyghur musician Sanubar Tursan on vocals and dutar – click here for a sample including a hat with a nod to my Vermont and a dutar with a nod to my baroq-ulele, but sadly that artist was unable to show.

Still, we got plenty to see and here; Wu Man on pipa (we’d seen her before, in a late night “gig at the Wig” a couple of years ago) and Basel Rajoub and his Soriana project.

I got all excited about this concert when I went on line earlier in the week and listened to some Basel Rajoub/Soriana music; so much so that I downloaded a couple of albums to get familiar with this Syrian/Jazz fusion music:

Further motivation for the Syrian aspect of the music came from Gresham Society trip earlier in the week, where I saw, amongst other things, a wonderful antique picture of musicians in Aleppo (Basel Rajoub’s home town).

The concert was clearly rejigged to accomodate Sanubar’s absence, so the Wigmore Hall on-line stub – click here – and indeed the main programme did not have a running order, but a separate flyer did – uploaded and shown above.

The concert started with Wu Man alone, then Basel Rajoub’s Soriana Project, then Wu Man joined Soriana so they all played together. The all playing together biuts were the most interesting for live performance. The artists clearly enjoyed playing together.

I didn’t realise how much the pipa had Central Asian origins along with the dutar, but this link to Wu Man and Sanubar Tursan explaining it all helped me understand it.

It is a shame the concert needed to be rejigged, but frankly most of us were perfectly content. Janie really enjoyed the fusion sounds, although she claimed last night to have tired a little of me playing the Basel Rajoub recordings. Perhaps you can have too much of a good thing.

The World of Orlando Gibbons, Phantasm, Wigmore Hall, 24 October 2016

This had allegedly been a day off, although I did plenty of work during the day. Still, Janie and I played tennis in the morning and had  a very pleasant late lunch and late afternoon together.

Then to the Wiggy for this concert, booked a long time ago and I had no recollection what it was about.

Ah yes, a rare opportunity to hear consort music by Orlando Gibbons, performed by the esteemed viol ensemble Phantasm.

They were great on the night.

Here’s a link to the Wigmore Hall stub for this concert, so you can see what we heard, as it were. 

All the music was wonderful but, as Laurence Dreyfus quite rightly puts it in his programme notes, it is the six part pieces that really stand out.

Listening to them is like peering into a kaleidoscope…[t]he term ‘syncopation’ simply does not cover it

Syncopation – surely not “The Funky Gibbons”? – no, perhaps not. Very soothing music as it happens.

Dreyfus also mentions in the notes that it is so difficult to keep time for these pieces that even seasoned performers can miss their entry beat…

…and indeed he came a cropper himself on one occasion. Dreyfus took it on the chin and they started O Lord In Thy Wrath again.

Indeed, Laurence Dreyfus seems a rather sweet, self-effacing chap. When he introduced the encore, Pavane in F by John Jenkins, the elderly gentleman next to me said, rather loudly, to his wife…

John Who?

…Laurence Dreyfus smiled sweetly and said, a little louder, directly to the gentleman…

John Jenkins.

…I liked that.

The Gibbons music reminded me a little of the Corelli sonatas I enjoy so much, but of course these pieces were written so much earlier – incredibly sophisticated and rich sounds for their period.

Wonderful musicians all, Phantasm. Of course they spend almost as long tuning their viols as playing; that’s viol music for you.

I’m thinking I should invest in a good recording of these consort pieces. Glenn Gould is said to have listened to little else at times, but then he was as mad as a bag of frogs, so perhaps not a role model for listening choices.

Still, I loved the Gibbons consort sound and Janie dozed and listened appropriately.

Excellent review by Michael Church in The Independent – click here.

Yummy Chinese grub taken away from The Four Seasons on Queensway to round off the evening.

Update: I couldn’t resist downloading Phantasm’s recording of Gibbons Consort music – click here for link – delightful sound on the recording too. Not the same as live, of course, when is it ever, but lovely soothing sound.