Wednesday 14 June 2023

A little bit of magic: Asya Fateyeva and Lautten Compagney Berlin at the Dresden Music Festival

Asya Fateyeva (Photo Marco Borggreve)
Asya Fateyeva (Photo Marco Borggreve)
Baroque goes Pop: Henry Purcell, Lennon & McCartney; Asya Fateyeva, Lautten Compagney Berlin, Wolfgang Katschner; Dresden Music Festival at Martin-Luther-Kirche

A remarkable evening full of wonderful sounds and colours as Baroque and contemporary blend with imagination and musicality

Travelling to Dresden for the Dresden Music Festival's production of Wagner's Das Rheingold, I took advantage of my presence in the city to catch another festival concert. Now, I have to admit that my selection was based on eagerness to hear the period instrument ensemble Lautten Compagney Berlin in a programme of Purcell. It was only later I realised that the soloist wasn't a soprano, but a saxophone player.

So, on Tuesday 13 June 2023, I was at the historic Martin-Luther-Kirche in Dresden's Neustadt for Asya Fateyeva (saxophones) and Lautten Compagney Berlin, directed from the lute by Wolfgang Katschner in a programme interleaving music by Purcell with songs by the Beatles. Asya Fateyeva is a Ukrainian born, German resident saxophonist who studied in Moscow, Cologne, Paris and Hamburg.

The Purcell selections concentrated on the theatre music, King Arthur, The Fairy Queen, The Indian Queen, Dido and Aeneas, Distressed Innocence, Bonduca, and Abdelazar plus the funeral music for Queen Mary. The Beatles selections included well known items such as Yesterday, Blackbird and Norwegian Wood, along with the not so well known such as Being for the Benefit of Mr Kites, Because and Another Girl.

The instrumental line up was a-historical, not just the presence of the saxophone, but alongside a string quintet, recorder, lutes (three plucked instruments), harp, harpsichord and organ we had cornett and percussion. This might sound somewhat odd, but the effect of hearing Fateyeva's soprano saxophone duetting with a cornett in Purcell's 'One charming night' from The Fairy Queen was pure magic.

We began with Lennon & McCartney's Another Girl (from Help), with recording, strings and percussion creating an almost South American feel, then Fateyeva adding her fluid saxophone line floating over the top. Two Purcell items followed, 'Aeolus Air' from King Arthur and 'Thus the gloomy world' from The Fairy Queen. The first, fast and free, a very modern take on Purcell with moments where saxophone and cornett duetted. The second, a gently intimate account for recorder and strings with no saxophone.

The approach varied, but essentially this was the mix for the evening. With three players on a mix of lutes, Baroque guitar and theorbo, plus harp and harpsichord, there were plenty of plucked string textures along with the other instruments, giving us a wide colour palate that was used with great imagination.

Fateyeva, whether playing soprano, alto or tenor saxophone (and sometimes she alternated in one number), had a seductive, fluid tone that was lovely. She could sing a line with great purity or get down and dirty. Sometimes this sense of freedom went too far. 'The Cold Song' from King Arthur had so much going on that it felt self-indulgent, whilst Lennon & McCartney's  Tomorrow Never Knows (from Revolver) moved almost into free jazz territory.

But there were moments of magic too - an unlikely melding of Lennon & McCartney's Norwegian Wood (from Rubber Soul) with Greensleeves, an account of Lennon & McCartney's Girl (from Rubber Soul) with an almost Purcellian accompaniment, and moments when Fateyeva simply sang a pure Purcellian line over the ensemble, such as the act tunes from Abdelazar and Bonduca.

We ended with a version of Purcell's 'Thrice happy lovers' from The Fairy Queen which moved from the discreet simplicity of saxophone, harpsichord and bass to the full ensemble in engaging South American mode. Pure magic.

Martin-Luther-Kirche is one of the few churches in Dresden to escape the war largely unscathed. It is also large and a near capacity audience was most enthusiastic. We were treated to two encores. First, the ensemble returned to 'One charming night', but a different arrangement this time which melded into Lennon & McCartney's Penny Lane - unlikely, but it worked. Then Lennon & McCartney's I want to hold your hand with a very Purcellian ground bass.

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