Cracking Start For York Early Music Festival
Elaine Annable, Music Correspondent
The York Early Music Festival got off to a cracking start on Friday 5th of July with a concert given by The Yorkshire Bach Choir and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists in the gothic splendour of York Minster.
Entitled 'A Roman Arcadian Celebration it consisted of works by Handel and Corelli dating back to the early 1700s when they were both living and working in Rome. They were joined for this concert by sopranos Mhairi Lawson and Bethany Seymour.
Although an incredible setting for a concert of Baroque Music, the wonderful gothic Minster has its own inherent problems when it comes to the production and projection of sound.
Unfortunately in Laudate Pueri by Handel, the first piece on the programme, that was all too apparent as the sound from both orchestra and choir was disappointingly muffled.
Concerto in D Major op.6 no.4 - Arcangelo Corelli
This is one of my favourite Concerti Grossi from the 0p.6 set and it was played with great passion and commitment.
However I feel that it could have benefited from being taken at a slightly slower tempo.
Again, possibly due to the acoustics of the Minster, it wasn't always possible to hear the concertino clearly and I was left feeling slightly frustrated hoping for more volume and clarity of articulation.
Lascia la spina Handel.
The orchestra really got into their stride in this piece.
The soprano Bethany Seymour sang beautifully with a lovely mellow tone and the orchestra accompanied her very sensitively.
Saeviat tellus - Handel.
The oboist Rachel Chaplin deserves a special mention in this work.
At times in octaves with the soprano Mhairi Lawson, together they showed amazing control with the most beautifully controlled crescendos and decrescendos.
Dixit Dominus - Handel
The highlight of the evening was the final work, Handel's -Dixit Dominus.
The Yorkshire Bach choir and Baroque Soloists gave a powerful and dramatic performance with real attack. The sound from both the choir and orchestra was much clearer with none of the earlier problems.
The Rose consort of Viols
Saturday evening saw 'The Rose consort of Viols' in the Jack Lyon's concert Hall on the university campus, in a concert, which celebrated John Dowland.
They were joined by soprano, Grace Davidson, alto, Clare Wilkinson, tenor, Jeremy Budd, bass, Timothy Scott Whiteley and Jacob Heringman on lute.
The programme that followed was a gentle, varied, well-chosen selection of songs and consort music, which clearly demonstrated the melancholic traits of Dowland and his contemporaries.
The Rose Consort of Viols was very impressive in their clean precise ensemble work, sensitively accompanying a quartet of singers who really communicated their enjoyment of the music.
The unaccompanied song,' If my complaints,' demonstrated the group's rich full sound and beautiful blend of voices, where every part could be clearly heard. I particularly enjoyed the contrast of textures that came from using different combinations of voices and instruments.
Sunday evening's concert by Musica Antiqua Roma was called 'Approaching Corelli'.
The ensemble, consisting of: two violins, cello, theorbo and harpsichord, performed music by Arcangelo Corelli and his contemporaries.
This concert was the highlight of the weekend for me: Musica Antiqua Roma is an amazing ensemble and the director, Riccardo Minasi and his fellow musicians really communicated their love of the music with joyful dance-like playing.
I particularly enjoyed hearing the harpsichord solo in Pasquini's Toccata in A Minor as so often in music from this period, the harpsichord is used as a lower continuo part and very rarely featured.
My only criticism was that I got lost when the group occasionally rushed from one piece to the next without stopping to allow the audience to applaud.
Unfortunately this resulted in the ensemble reaching the end of the first half of the programme before many members of the audience -amusing but at the same time very annoying! And the programme notes didn't help, as it wasn't clear how many movements were in each piece.
Overall, it was a wonderful weekend of Early Music. I am the first to admit that this is not the period of music that I would normally listen to, but I would definitely encourage anyone to give it a try.
Although musically pretty much without fault, there is room for improvement in the presentation of some of the concerts, especially in the more intimate settings of the smaller venues.
I would have liked the ensembles to acknowledge the audience rather more than they did. Perhaps taking it in turns to introduce individual pieces might have enhanced our enjoyment and understanding of the music.
Cracking Start For York Early Music Festival, 12th July 2013, 16:21 PM