York Early Music International Young Artists Competition 2019
National Centre for Early Music
York, 11-13 July 2019
Founded in 1985, the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition (until 2009 under the auspices of the Early Music Network) is firmly ensconced in the National Centre for Early Music in the splendidly restored former medieval church of St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York. This year was the 18th incarnation of the biennial event, which for some years has formed part of the annual York Early Music Festival and is supported by the National Centre for Early Music, BBC Radio 3, Arts Council England and Linn Records. The full list of competition rules can be seen here but, briefly, there must be a minimum of two members aged 36 years or under with an average age of 32 or under. The repertory must be from the middle ages to the nineteenth century, using historically informed playing techniques, instruments and stylistic conventions. The ten finalists were chosen from 58 applications to provide a balance sequence of concerts in the final, covering the whole ‘early music’ period. The BBC Radio broadcast of selections of pieces from the final can be heard here.
Festival d’Ambronay/Festival eeemerging
Centre culterel de recontre d’Ambronay
28-30 September 2018
The 39th Festival d’Ambronay saw the conclusion of an annual triptych devoted to the theme of Vibrations, in this case with the subtext of ‘Cosmos’. Spread over four weekends, it was described as “An evocation in music of a cosmos alternately spiritual or material, intimate or grandiose, in-depth or elevation … An evocation of the stars, elements and spirituality, a look at the harmony of man and the universe“. As well as hosting the annual festival, the Centre culterel de recontre d’Ambronay is also the base for the eeemerging project (Emerging European Ensembles), a European Union-wide cooperation project dedicated to the selection, training and promotion of young early music ensembles. It brings together partners from the UK, Latvia, Romania, Slovenia, Italy and Germany in a four-year cooperation project. Alongside festival events, the third weekend of the four-weekend festival was devoted to the ensembles selected for the 2018 eeemerging round, with six young groups of musicians performing, alongside one of the previous eeemerging ensembles and one of the most established groups in recent history. The comparison between the young musicians and some of the more established performers in the festival was of particular interest, leaving me with the view that the latter, with few exceptions, have a lot to learn from the former.
The Curious Bards
Traditional & Popular Music of 18th-Century Ireland & Scotland
Harmonia Mundi (harmonia#nova) HMN916105. 62’47
The Curious Bards was founded in 2013 by musicians from the music conservatories of Lyon, Paris and Basel, sharing an interest both in early music and traditional Irish, Celtic and Gaelic music. They aim to unite these musical worlds through research and historical musical discoveries. For this CD, they use a range of instruments including triple harp, violin, viola da gamba, a transverse flute, a tin whistle, and a cittern specially constructed by William Gibson for this recording, based on a 1778 Irish original in Dublin’s Collins Barracks Museum, part of the National Museum of Ireland. Continue reading
Ambronay Editions, AMY308. 60’43
Works by Albertini, Marini, Castaldi, Pandolfi Mealli, Stradella,
I have written before of the excellent work that eeemerging and the Cultural Centre Ambronay do to support young musicians. One such is the arrangement by which the top two ensembles in each of the eeemerging rounds are offered a recording through the Collection Jeunes Ensembles of Ambronay Editions. A recent example is this CD, Assassins, Assassinations, the debut recording of the two-person ensemble Repicco, (violinist Kinga Ujszàszi and Jadran Duncumb, theorbo). The rather grizzly link between the Italian Baroque composers represented in the recording is that they were all either murdered or murderers. This is a genre of recording that, I trust, has a limited range, particularly when it comes to present days composers. It certainly says something about political and social life in Italy during the period known as the ‘Iron century’, a time dominated by powerful families and warring cities. Continue reading
Festival de Saintes
Abbaye aux Dames: la cité musicale, Saintes
14-22 July 2017
The Abbaye aux Dames was founded in 1047 by the Count of Anjou as a Benedictine abbey for women, usually of aristocratic origin. Around 1120, the Abbey church was altered and the spectacularly carved west end facade and bell tower were added. Internally, the Romanesque triple-aisled basilica was altered, rather inelegantly, by inserting two enormous domed cupolas into the original external walls, resulting in a bit of an architectural mess. After two major fires in the 17th century (which destroyed the cupolas), the church was restored, and impressive new convent buildings were added, with cells for 45 nuns. During the Revolution, the Abbey first became a prison (1792), and then a barracks (1808). In the 1920s, the Abbey complex was purchased by the town of Saintes. In the 1970s, restoration of the monastic buildings (abandoned since the war) was started and, in 1972, an annual Festival of Ancient Music was created, later becoming the Festival de Saintes. In 1988 the Abbey was launched as a cultural centre by President François Mitterrand, and in 2013 it became la cité musicale, housing a Conservatoire of Music and a range of year-round musical activities, including many for young people. The former nun’s cells now sleep visitors and guests of the Festival.