Christopher Tye and Claude Le Jeune: 16th-century musical radicals, Wigmore Hall, 22 October 2017

I got several e-mails from the Wig slightly changing this concert; at one point swapping an artiste, at another tweaking the programme. At no point undermining my purpose, which was to hear viol music by two Renaissance composers whose viol music I had never heard before.

Here is the Wigmore Hall page on the gig we finally saw.

We really enjoyed our evening.

It was more or less exactly a year ago that we saw and heard Phantasm do a wonderful job of Orlando Gibbons – click here.

In truth, I think Gibbons is the better gig – or at least more to our taste.

The Tye is rather relentlessly somber. But he must  have been a spunky chap. Word on the street is that Queen Elizabeth did not like his playing and sent a verger to tell Tye that he was playing out of tune. Tye sent back the message that it was her ears that were out of tune. I’ll remember that riposte for my baroq-ulele playing and singing.

Still, we preferred the Le Jeune, who was new to both of us as a composer and far more upbeat.

Janie was a little disappointed that the lute was such a bit part for these pieces. We had recently seen Paul O’Dette’s superb solo concert – click here – but of course when the lute was part of an ensemble it tended to have a continuo role in those days.

We always get a warm feeling with Phantasm. Laurence Dreyfus comes across so nicely and explains things without the slightest note of condescension.

Yes we enjoyed very much indeed. If you have never seen Phantasm live, seek them out. If you live in a remote place, I would recommend the Gibbons as a place to start listening,ahead of Tye or Le Jeune,  but for sure do listen to some…

…and if it is the Tye you fancy, you can click the image below and Amazon it:

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 www.musicomh.com 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.

Will You Go Walk The Woods So Wild? Paul O’Dette, Lunchtime Concert, Wigmore Hall, 2 October 2017

I used to say that there are only two places left in the world where stewards and patrons still call me young man; Wigmore Hall and Lord’s.

Today I must sadly report that I went to both places and was referred to not once as young man. This is becoming a pattern. What is going on?

Still, apart from my awareness of my fast disappearing “youth”, the lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall was an absolute delight. Janie and I both very much enjoy the relaxing nature of this type of music…perhaps it’s our age?

Paul O’Dette is no youngster either – indeed he looks a little like father Christmas these days, making his press photos a little dated, perhaps.

But boy can he play the lute, jamming good with Byrd and Dowland…

…here is the Wigmore Hall resource on this concert, so you can read all about it.

There was a rather lovely Bacheler Pavane and Galliard between the two pieces listed for Bacheler on the above resource.

This was a BBC Radio 3 lunchtime concert, so still available at the time of writing for another four weeks or so if you are in  the right country or can convince the BBC iPlayer that you are – click here.

There was a delightful encore of an Italian Renaissance piece – sadly I missed the name of it and the broadcast missed the piece completely. It was lovely.

As was the whole concert. Very soothing music. I realised that this type of music would suit me very well for when I’m working or relaxing, so I downloaded some and bought a couple of CDs on-line too.

The above double CD was the closest I could find to the concert we heard (and lots more besides). I snapped up the last currently available copy at a sensible price on Amazon, but you might want to look occasionally and/or elsewhere for it.

Janie and I enjoyed a fine lunch at The Wig after the concert, then on to Lord’s (via Noddyland) for the end of season Middlesex Forum and drinks party, not that there was anything to celebrate. Still, the forum went as well as can be expected and it was good to see people at the end of the season.

This evening (the next day), I am mellowing out, listening to Paul O’Dette on the lute, while writing this Ogblog piece. Such sweet sounds.

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.

Aspects Of Darkness And Light, Joshua Redman And Freinds, Wigmore Hall, 24 April 2014

We were excited about Joshua Redman taking up residency at the Wigmore hall and thought this concert might be right up our street.

In truth, I don’t think the Patrick Zimmerli music on show that night was quite to our taste.

It was an interesting idea blending a string quartet with a jazz trio, but it didn’t quite work for us with this music.

We liked bits of it and were glad we’d been to the concert.

Here is a link to the Wigmore hall stub for this concert.

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: