Exciting times - since the last post in November, I've had a brief but intense dalliance with a modern string quartet, A Far Cry was honored with a nomination for a small ensemble GRAMMY award, and I became engaged to be married! Life has been understandably (I hope) hectic so I'm almost relieved to find myself in Europe for the next 10 days, ready to dive into the HIP scene.
Last night I attended a ravishing performance of mostly Monteverdi at Wigmore Hall in London. Robert King directed The King's Consort (get it?), which consisted on this occasion of eight singers, two violinists, two pluckers plucking chitarrones, violone, and organ. Variety was added to the sound by alternating between works that called for different groups of singers and cleverly interjecting two Andrea Gabrieli intonations - short solo organ works that led directly into the next Monteverdi selection. I particularly loved the Gabrieli idea - rather than a sombre, still experience, the other musicians used the organ music to readjust their setup, move chairs, even quietly check tuning etc. I couldn't believe how thoroughly that simple detail transported me to the feeling of being in a church - and what could be more appropriate for a concert of Monteverdi sacred music? A little genius.
Of course I was most interested to see the two violinists, and they didn't disappoint. Huw Daniel, on first, used a dramatically-cambered short bow and a generally light, scampering sound and ornamentation. Throughout the evening he get more daring with the ornaments, with was highly entertaining to me as well as to Daniel Edgar, the second violinist. Mr. Edgar used a less curved short bow and had a more penetrating essential sound quality and a slightly more forthright approach to ornaments - especially at cadences. They were really well matched for both variety and unanimity, and it was a pleasure to hear their extroverted contributions. I think I'll finish with some bullet points of other random thoughts from the concert:
- Robert King is a very assured conductor, with an energetic, loose physicality
- I finally understand violin ornamentation over massed vocal approaches to big cadences - the effect is like popcorn, and strings together big block chords. Done well as it was by Mr. Edgar and Mr. Daniel, it adds an element of ecstatic energy that can be almost overwhelming. Bravo!
- Charles Daniels was a standout tenor with a couple of solo pieces. Great variety of articulation, vocal timbre, and just enough rubato to earn a grin from Mr. King (who was a seated audience member during the two solos).
- One of the basses fell ill and was replaced the day of the concert. I was impressed, given the reputation of London musical groups, with the implication that the ensemble had been rehearsing prior to the day of the concert.
- Wigmore Hall is a really fun venue that makes the most of its tiny size, and rewards with a beautiful, honest acoustic. It's a little bit like Weill at Carnegie.