Friday, 27 November 2015

Birthday treats - Roderick Williams, Ashley Solomons and Florilegium at the Wigmore Hall

Ashley Solomon & Florilegium
Ashley Solomon & Florilegium
Buxtehude, Tunder, Biber, Bach, Telemann; Roderick Williams, Florilegium (director Ashley Solomon); Wigmore Hall
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford on Nov 25 2015
Star rating: 4.5

A Baroque 'Schubertiade' to help celebrate a birthday and an anniversary

Florilegium, director Ashley Solomon, are approaching their 25th anniversary and baritone Roderick Williams is celebrating his 50th with a number of appearances at the Wigmore. This concert of 17th and 18th century music at the Wigmore Hall on 25 November 2015 was birthday treats all round, with music by Buxtehude, Tunder, Biber, Bach and Telemann including Bach's cantata Ich habe genug BWV82

Roderick Williams
Roderick Williams
The programme was very varied, in the style of a Baroque 'Schubertiade', and just as intimate. We started off with Buxtehude’s Venetian-influenced sonata scored for two violins, viola and viola da gamba with extensive use of double-stopping making for a richer texture. Buxtehude’s father-in-law Franz Tunder came next, with two settings of 17th-century devotional texts for bass voice and strings. These pieces showed the influence of Monteverdi with their hypnotic repetitions of the text and the sense of space. Roderick Williams’ rock-solid technique showed no sign of strain in the subterranean low notes and he travelled seamlessly through the registers of his rich and flexible baritone. We also had a foretaste of the exquisite phrasing he was to use in the Bach in the second half.

Between the two Tunder pieces was Biber’s Serenada, another work commissioned for the court (in this case Koměřiž), with its varied dance movements including the eccentric pizzicato Ciacona. Williams, standing in for the violone player asked for in the score, entered stage right as the Night Watchman, to tell us it was nine o’clock and all’s well, crossed over to tell us it was ten o’clock and exiting stage left. We were certainly given a vivid picture of life in 17th-century Middle Europe as we watched these consummate musicians enjoying playing music they loved and making us feel we were all at the same party.

After the interval the clock went forward by several decades: Florilegium danced their way through Bach’s sunny Trio Sonata in G that felt like a mini-Brandenburg. Telemann’s Concerto in D for flute had a breezy, uncomplicated feel, opening mysteriously and ending with a raucous peasant dance. We were a hop, skip and a jump away from Haydn at Esterházy.

The final piece on the official programme was Bach’s Cantata 82 Ich habe genug, sung off-copy by Williams, its tessitura much higher than in the first half, and sung with pin-point coloratura that you never felt was done for its own sake. The duet with Alexandra Bellamy’s oboe and the pulsing of the continuo were mesmerising and Williams made every word, every repetition (every ‘Ach!’) mean something different and sincere. He is a masterful storyteller and looked at every individual in the audience whilst keeping perfectly poised throughout. And the instruments – described by Diapason magazine as 'poets and magicians' – singing along.

We suspected we were in for another treat because of the tell-tale spare music stand on stage and the absence of a flute part in the Bach. Ashley Solomon came on to reassure us that he had in fact found a Cantata with an aria for bass, winds and continuo: No 181 Leichtgesinnter Flattergeister, flighty and fun, and a perfect end to a lovely, uplifting concert.
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford

Dietrich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707) Sonata in C BuxWV266; Franz Tunder (1614-1667) Da mihi, Domine; Heinrich Biber (1644-1704) Serenada a 5 'Der Nachtwächter'; Franz Tunder O Jesu dulcissime; JS Bach (1685-1750) Trio Sonata in G major BWV1038; Georg Phillipp Telemann (1681-1767) Concerto in D for flute, violin and strings TWV51:D2; JS Bach Ich habe genug BWV82

Ashley Solomon (Director) - flute
Alexandra Bellamy – oboe
Catherine Martin – violin 1
Jean Paterson – violin 2
Ylvali Zilliacus – viola
Reiko Ichise – viola da gamba
Jennifer Morsches – cello
Carina Cosgrave – bass
Terence Charlston – harpsichord/chamber organ
Roderick Williams - baritone

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