Reviewed by Ruth Hansford on Jun 26 2016
Irresistible rhythms in a journey to the south exploring Ladino music
British-Israeli, Libyan-born counter-tenor Yaniv d’Or treated Sunday evening's Wigmore Hall (26 June 2016) audience to a journey to the 'South'. He traced the route of his Sephardi ancestors as they were expelled from Spain in 1492 and sailed around the Mediterranean and to Latin America, taking with them their Ladino language, their Jewish rituals and a tradition of sacred and secular songs.
D’Or shared the platform with a dozen versatile instrumentalists: gamba-player Amit Tiefenbrunn with his Israel-based Barrocade and Ensemble NAYA. They created a seductive soft-grained sound reminiscent of Jordi Savall’s Hesperion XXI with – as expected with this kind of music – a hypnotic energy. Feet were tapping in the audience, and backs swaying to the irresistible rhythms. We were transported.
The programme started with the Sabbath prayer ‘Shalom Aleichem’ in a version that seemed timeless but, it turns out, was only written in 1900. D’Or first sang unaccompanied and the band gradually built up a distinctive combination of Baroque counterpoint (provided by the harpsichord) with psalterium, guitar, lute and recorders evoking the eastern Mediterranean. D’Or calls this ‘folk Baroque’ – its seventeenth-century roots evolving over time and space as it accrued other traditions.
For the remainder of the first half, the songs were in Spanish or Ladino: tales of love and exile. ‘Canarios’, a spectacular virtuosic guitar piece by Gaspar Sanz, was a reminder that the guitar’s resilience and portability made it ideal for taking across seas and continents. Bringing things up to date but still in the same sound-world, he Ladino text ‘La soledad de la nochada’ (The loneliness of the night) was set by d’Or himself as a response to the hostilities in Gaza in 2014 – desolate and dark. It was starkly contrasted with the final number ‘Morikos’, an energetic tale of baby-swapping across the class divide.
The second half of the concert featured more songs and instrumental pieces from d’Or and colleagues’ forthcoming CD (also called ‘Latino Ladino’, on Naxos from July). Bitter-sweet, timeless songs of exile and love against the odds were interspersed with the gorgeous ‘Passacaglia’ by Monteverdi’s colleague Biagio Marini and Isaac Albeniz’ famous ‘Asturias’ performed as a duo for mandolin and guitar and a mesmerising demonstration of musicians’ telepathy as well as stunning technique.
The programme was well put together though quite short. I think all of us would have happily heard more from the band, not least as a chance to reflect on what internationalism and a celebration of our shared heritage brings – not to mention the opportunity for an escape from stormy London to sunnier places.
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford
Yaniv d'Or countertenor
Amit Tiefenbrunn viola da gamba
Traditional: Shalom Aleichem
Francisco Escalada: Canten dos Jilguerillos
Trad/Ladino: A la una yo nací; Avre tu puerta cerrada; Axerico de Quinze Años
Etienne Moulinié (c.1600-1669): Rio de Sevilla
Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710): Canarios
Yaniv d'Or (b.1975): La Soledad de la Nochada
Trad/Ladino: Morikos; Hija Mia
Biagio Marini (1594-1663); Passacaglia in G minor
Trad/Ladino: El Rey de Francia
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909): Suite Española Op. 47 Asturias (Leyenda)
Gaspar Sanz: Marizápalos
Trad/Ladino: Los Guisados De La Berenjena
Violetta Parra (1917-1967): Gracias a la Vida
Vincenzo Calestani (1589-1617): Damigella Tutta Bella
Traditional: Adio Querida; Noces noces
Elsewhere on this blog:
- Filling the shoes of Handel's favourite tenor: Where'er you walk from Allan Clayton, Ian Page & Classical Opera - CD review
- Emotional punch: Puccini's La fanciulla del West at Grange Park Opera - opera review
- Grandeur and intimacy: Verdi's Don Carlo at Grange Park Opera - opera review
- Youthful ensemble: Young artists La Boheme at Opera Holland Park - opera review
- Real ensemble: Jenufa at the London Coliseum - opera review
- Elegant and intense: Mozart's Idomeneo at Garsington - opera review
- Baroque/folk mash-up: L'Avventura London and The Old Blind Dogs - concert review
- Brahms & Bruce: Julian Bliss and the Carducci Quartet - Cd review
- Unevenly spread: Purcell's King Arthur re-imagined - concert review
- New folk-influenced music: Apollo Chamber Players - CD review
- Work in progress: Tristan and Isolde at ENO - Opera review
- Laying groundwork for the future: Garsington Opera, and Opera for All - feature