Arvo Pärt & Robert White
Sansara & Fretwork
St John’s, Smith Square, 14 April 2022
For many years, St John’s, Smith Square has been the musical place to be in the run-up to Easter. This year’s Easter Festival was no exception. The seven-day event included regulars such as Polyphony, in their traditional Good Friday Passion, alongside the usual focus on other early music performances. The first two events rather countered that focus with the 1915 Rachmaninoff All-Night Vigil opening the festival followed by Dupré’s 1931 Le Chemin de la Croix for organ. Another was the concert by the vocal group Sansara and the viol consort Fretwork, reviewed here, which contrasted music by the contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt with Robert Wight’s Lamentations à 5.
London International Festival of Early Music
5 November 2020
Another festival to turn to an online rather than a live presence is the annual London International Festival of Early Music with a series of nightly concerts under the banner of LIFEM: DIGITAL, recorded in their usual venues in and around Blackheath is south-east London. The first concert was given by the viol consort Fretwork, who celebrated the 30th anniversary in 2016. The concert ended with a world premiere of The Tudor Pull by John Paul Jones who many will know as the most modest member of the legendary multi-instrumentalist of the 1970/802 rock group Led Zeppelin.
Remember me my dear
Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble
ECM New Series ECM 2625.
The 25-year collaboration between four a capella male voices of The Hilliard Ensemble and the Norwegian jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek is one of the most extraordinary stories in the world of music. Although far from being the first example of cross-over partnerships, it was one of the most innovative. Engineered (in more ways than one) by ECM’s Manfred Eicher, the result was Officium, one of the most influential recordings of recent decades. Two others followed, plus extensive concert touring. After 40 years of performing and recording, The Hilliard Ensemble retired in 2014. Part of their final year of performances were appearances with Jan Garbarek, one of which is the focus of this live recording. Continue reading
Before the Ending of the Day
Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips
Royal Albert Hall, 6 September 2018
The late-night concert on 6 September, following the Britten War Requiem, was a quasi-liturgical performance of the service of Compline, the concluding service of the daily eight canonical hours in Catholic liturgy. After the concluding litany of the War Requiem: “Let us sleep now” it was an appropriate add-on. Traditionally followed in monastic settings by the ‘Great Silence’ that lasted until the first service of the morning, its roots go back to St Benedict at the beginning of the sixth century. The name of the service comes from the word ‘complete’ reflecting the completion of the working day – or, in this case, for most of us, the end of a musical day. Continue reading
Spitalfields Music: B’Rock
Rodolfo Richter director/violin, Julia Doyle soprano
Christ Church Spitalfields. 11 December 2015
Corelli: Concertos grosso Op6/4 and Op6/8 ‘Christmas Concerto’; Handel: Gloria; Arvo Pärt arr Frank Agsteribbe: Fratres; A Scarlatti: Cantata ‘O di Betlemme altera’
Making a spectacular Spitalfields Festival debut, the Belgian group B’Rock gave one of the finest concerts I have heard in a while. It is easy for reviewers to overdo superlatives or, indeed, to run out of new ones to use; and I am always wary of writers whose every concert seems to be the ‘best they have heard’. But this really was something special.
The opening chords of Corelli’s Concerto grosso in D (Op6/4) demonstrated B’Rock’s ability to create enormous contrast out of a sparse musical text, in this case of just nine chords. Under the inspired direction of violinist Rudolfo Richter, they Continue reading
“So glorious you stand, dear city”
12-21 June 2015
The festival motto reflects the fact that 2015 is the millennium of the first documentary record of Leipzig, when the Bishop of Merseburg mentioned the town of “urbe libzi” in his chronicle in 1015. The phrase So herrlich stehst du, liebe Stadt! is taken from Bach’s cantata Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn (BWV 119), written in 1723 in honour of the Leipzig city council, the ‘dear city’ clearly referring both to Jerusalem and Leipzig. It was performed by the Thomanerchor and the Händelfestspielorchester Halle at the opening concert of the festival (held, unusually, in the Nikolaikirche rather than the Thomaskirche, on 12 June, 5pm) where it followed Max Reger’s arrangement for organ of Bach’s Chromatische Fantasie und Fuge d-Moll, played by Stefan Kießling with commendable restraint.
Written within a few months of his arrival in Leipzig, Bach’s large scale Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn (one of many such ‘Ratswahl’ cantatas Continue reading