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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
“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.
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.
…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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.