London International Exhibition of Early Music

London International Exhibition of Early Music
Early Music Young Ensemble Competition Finals
Blackheath, 8-10 November 2018

The London International Exhibition of Early Music is the latest incarnation of an annual event organised over many years by the Early Music Shop. It has had a number of names over the years, the most recent one being the Royal Greenwich International Early Music Festival, although it had been resident in Blackheath for a couple of years. My review of last year’s festival can be found here. Concerts have always been an important addition to the musical instrument exhibition, ranging from demonstration recitals on behalf of instrument makers, Performers Platforms, competition winner’s recitals and, this year, for the first time, the Early Music Young Ensemble Competition Finals, alongside more formal evening concerts by some leading names in the early music world. This year’s complete events diary can be seen here. The instrument exhibition itself takes place in the newly restored Blackheath Halls, with the concerts taking place in nearby churches. Continue reading

Secret History

John Potter: Secret History
Josquin/Victoria

ECM New Series ECM2119

It’s been a while since the names of John Potter and ECM have been linked in an ‘early music’ recording, the last being back in Potter’s Hilliard Ensemble days. This recording was made in 2011, and was the first time this group of musicians had got together. It pre-dates their later recording Amores Pasados published in 2015. The result is a radical re-think of Renaissance music performance, not least in reducing complex polyphony to just one or two vocal lines, sung by John Potter and Anna Maria Friman, the remaining voices being played on vihuelas (an early form of guitar, tuned like a lute) by Ariel Abramovich, Jacob Haringman, and Lee Santana. In the opening eight-part Mouton Nesciens mater for example, they sing the two paired superius lines, in the form of a canon at the fifth, very occasionally switching to one of the other six voices. The three vihuelas play the remaining pairs of voices, which are all also in the same strict canonic form. An extraordinary feat of contrapuntal writing, reduced to comparative simplicity.  Continue reading

Amores Pasados

Amores Pasados
John Potter, Anna Maria Friman, Ariel Abramovich, Jacob Herringman
ECM New Series. 481 1555

AP coverWhat is a song? The music on this CD responds to that question by crossing the bridge between art song and pop song. It combines pieces from the English 16th century lute song repertoire with compositions influenced by those works by three present day musicians, more usually associated with rock music. We hear the Genesis keyboard-player, Tony Banks, reflect on Campion’s The cypress curtain of the night and Follow thy fair sun – as well as the Campion originals. Sting’s Bury me deep in the greenwood (written for the film, Robin Hood) is firmly in the lute-song tradition.

The CD opens with former Led Zeppelin bass-player, John Paul Jones’s 15 minute, three movement Amores Pasados, written in 1989 for Red Byrd. His No dormia, is a magically evocative, and almost medieval Continue reading