Saturday 7 March 2009

I Fagiolini at Cadogan Hall

On Thursday we were in the Cadogan Hall for the latest in their Choral at Cadogan series, this time I Fagiolini with a fascinating programme which spanned Carnival and Lent. For the first half, we were presented with a number of Venetian Carnival items then in the second half Tallis's Lamentations and Gesualdo's Responsories for Good Friday. This made it a tricky programme for the singers, going from the light-hearted foolery of Vecchi's L'Amfiparnaso to the controlled anguish of Gesualdo's late style. But Robert Hollingworth and his group managed it superbly.

All the first half items were staged, against a back drop of an Italian street and for the scenes from L'Amfiparnaso the actors used masks. I use the word actors advisedly as Vecchi's music was not designed to be sung on stage but used as an accompaniment, so the singers sat at the side whilst other singers mimed with Hollingworth himself as a Pantalone and William Purefoy as a hilarious whore. A couple of the comic works by Croce and Banchieri were sung in English versions by Timothy Knapmna. Knapman also wrote English rhyming introductions to the scenes from L'Amfiparnaso and these were delightfully spoken by Kit Hesketh-Hervey.

The 2nd half opened with a haunting account of Tallis's Lamentations. Given the slightly dry, un-church-like acoustic of the Cadogan Hall, the performance needed to be all the more controlled and gave us a hint of what the private, non-liturgical performances of this piece might have been like in the Elizabethan era. This was followed by Clemens non papa's Fremuit spiritus Iesu, in a terrific performance. Then finally the 5 Gesualdo responsories, the lights of the auditorium gradually dimming until the final Tenebrae.

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