Friday, 19 May 2017

Fish or fowl? Jasmin Toccata's Late o'Clock Baroque at London Festival of Baroque Music

Jasmin Toccata (Keyvan Chemirani, Jean Rondeau, Thomas Dunford) - photo Bertrand Pichene
Jasmin Toccata (Keyvan Chemirani, Jean Rondeau, Thomas Dunford)
photo Bertrand Pichene
Late o'Clock Baroque: Jasmin Toccata; London Festival of Baroque Music at St John's Smith Square
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford on May 13 2017
Star rating: 3.0

The intersection of two traditions in a late-night club atmosphere

On paper this looked very promising. An encounter between the European Baroque tradition and traditional Persian music for the late slot on Saturday 13 May 2017 at the London Festival of Baroque Music at St John's Smith Square. The three musicians of Jasmin Toccata (Keyvan Chemirani – zarb, santour & director, Thomas Dunford – lute, Jean Rondeau – harpsichord) in an hour-long programme at the intersection of two traditions that appear to have a lot in common, in terms of timbral range and improvisatory freedom, but with rules. It would have been a great opportunity to explore.

But we were given no help, no clues as to what we were listening to, and the audience that stayed on after Telemann and Bach (see my review) were probably glad to have been spared the challenge of reading programme notes in the dark. But a few introductions, a few titles, even wouldn’t have gone amiss. It all seemed rather clubby (in a bad way – though in a night club or at a party that would have been fine).

The sound world was lovely – hypnotic and soft on the ear.
Sounds and rhythms we know from operas of the period and later. Each number lasted a quarter of an hour or so and we heard snippets of famous Baroque tunes: Dido’s Lament, ‘Les Barricades Mystérieuses’, Dowland and any amount of Bach were all in there, ripped and mixed into something that was nearly wonderful but lacked cohesion. What was lacking for me was the lack of a real journey. It was just three lads (albeit very talented, virtuosic ones) larking about in a way that was not engaging for an audience after about 20 minutes. There was only one improviser – the percussionist and director. The others were just vamping indulgently around a few Baroque-y chords and famous phrases. It felt they simply didn’t have enough resources to deliver what they promised.
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford



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