Saturday 11 October 2008

Recent activity

Last night we went to see the last night of La Calisto at Covent Garden and a review will appear in due course.

On Thursday night we saw the Tallis Scholars, conductor Peter Phillips, at Cadogan Hall in a programme of music for Double Choir. The choir numbered just 10 singers (4 sopranos, 1 contralto, 1 counter-tenor, 2 tenors and 2 basses) and they covered a wide range of music in a number of different multi-choir combinations. Inevitably they included Allegri's Miserere, but unfortunately used the traditional version (with high C and incorrect modulation in the solo parts). This version is an effective piece, though not real Allegri. It helps if it has a generous acoustic; whereas here the group performed in a rather dry hall and seemed to thing they were doing real 17th century music. Still the audience loved it.

I was far more taken with the remainder of the programme. Two stunning pieces from Peter Philips (no relation), Ecce vicit leo and Ave Maria opened the evening. For all the pieces, except the Allegri, the choristers sang in a single arc across the stage. This was effective enough, but did not make anything of the spatial separations which these pieces seem to need.

On disc, the choir are notable for the perfection of tone and beauty of blend, sometimes to the detriment of other musical characteristics. Heard live, in a slightly dry acoustic, they presented a far more characterful ensemble. Blended yes, but with individual voices each having their own distinct character. And of course displaying their usual superb musicianship.

The 1st half continued with Andrea Gabrieli's Benedictus dominus and Lassus's double choir mass, Missa Bel'amfitrit'altera. Here the lack of words and movement information in the programme was something of a handicap, I am not sure I liked the audience applauding after the Gloria and the Credo, brilliant though they were.

The revelation of the 2nd half was the Lamentations by Daniel Phinot (1510 - 1556). Phinot was a name new to me and his lamentations were a superb find. One of the stand-out moments was the section sung just by the 4 lower male voices (2 tenors, 2 basses). In completion we had Palestrina's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for Double Choir.

This was a brilliant programme and a fine start to Cadogan Hall's first Choral series. To come are programmes from I Fagiolini, The Armonico Consort and another programme from The Tallis Scholars, this latter includes Mundy's Vox Patris Coelestis, so is a must.

The evening had me cycling home vowing to try and acquire some of this music so that we can perform it ourselves, which surely shows what a success the concert was.

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