Thursday, 11 May 2017

Vibrant launch: The Fieri Consort debuts its CD, Tears of a Lover

The Fieri Consort
The Fieri Consort
Last night (10 May 2017) the young vocal ensemble, Fieri Consort, launched its debut CD, Tears of a Lover, with a concert at 22 Mansfield Street, performing a selection of Italian madrigals from the CD along with English madrigals from the same period. Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the CD is the combination of Monteverdi's five voiced madrigal Lamento d'Arianna with a sequence of four madrigals by Ben Rowarth (both 1992) written specifically to be interleaved with the Monteverdi in a striking and daring move.

The Fieri Consort (Hannah Ely, Lucy Cox, Nancy Cole, Helen Charlston, Josh Cooter, Tom Kelly, David Maguire, Ben McKee) was originally formed in 2012 and the founding members all participated in the first Genesis Sixteen (the Sixteen young artists training arm). The consort was founded partly because the original members were keen to continue performing after the end of the Genesis Sixteen year, and in fact I heard them early in the group's life at a subsequent Genesis Sixteen event.

The CD (which was produced and edited by John Rutter) places madrigals by Monteverdi (1567-1643) alongside those of his two older contemporaries, Luca Marenzio (1553-1599) and Marc'Antonio Ingegneri (1547-1592); all three espousing avant-garde methods of bringing the poetic texts alive. At the concert we heard a selection of madrigals by all three, including four from Luca Marenzio's notable late Se quel dolor which sets a whole chapter by the poet Luigi Tansillo to dark and sombre music.

Perhaps my favourites from the evening were Monteverdi's Sfogava con le stelle (from the Fourth book of madrigals) and Stracciami pur il core (from the Third book of madrigals) both of which used advanced techniques to convey the underlying emotions and meanings in the text, finely brought out by the Fieri Consort.

The group sings one two a part, mixing and matching the eight singers as necessary. The acoustic of an 18th century Robert Adam drawing room is not quite ideal for this style of music, the salone of the Italian palazzos where the pieces were originally performed would have had rather airier acoustics. But the group's performance did not suffer because of the close proximity (both physical and aural) and I was impressed with their sheer command of this difficult music (Monteverdi's madrigals leave no hiding place for the singer), and the vibrant verve with which they sang them. This was vivid, emotional stuff.

Having recorded their first CD, the members of the group have their eye on their next project; Musica Transalpina. This is a 1588 collection of madrigals published in England, taking 57 madrigals by mainly Italian composers (notably Ferrabosco and Marenzio) and publishing them in English versions. Something which started the madrigal Renaissance in England and the group plans to explore Musica Transalpina and, eventually, record a selection. As a taster we heard three English madrigals, Come Sable Night by John Ward (1560-1638), surely an unjustly neglected figure, and two madrigals by John Dowland.

To complete the evening we heard the closing sequence from the Monteverdi/Rowarth Arianna, with Monteverdi's Lamento d'Arianna IV 'Ahi, che non pur risponde' and Ben Rowarth's The Turn IV 'Ohime bel viso'. As well as being a composer Rowarth runs his own vocal group, Renaissance Singers and on this hearing Ben Rowarth's writing is a striking complement to Monteverdi's and the sort of intelligent contemporary response to polyphonic writing we need.

There is a chance to hear the complete Monteverdi/Rowarth Arianna  at Purbeck Arts Week when the Fieri Consort is performing on Saturday 27 May (see the festival's website for further details). You can pre-order the group's CD from their website.

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