Monday, 6 December 2010

And it came to pass . . .

Brother and Sister
Andrew Daldorph conducts Devon Baroque
Soprano Amy Daldorph is soloist with
Exeter Chamber Choir
On Saturday we heard the Bach Christmas Oratorio in full.  The sound, which was so impressive at rehearsal on Tuesday was easily surpassed in the wonderfully atmospheric and acoustic environment of the Cathedral, and with the magnificent instrumental augmentation of  authentic baroque orchestra Devon Baroque.  Anyone listening to the 'Baroque Special' on Friday, would not have been disappointed by the opening chorus which delivered exactly as planned: full of energy and joy from the very first note.
Applause for conductor, soprano, alto, tenor and bass

Tenor Julian Forbes as the Evangelist sang clearly and powerfully, and delivered those crisp German S's perfectly.  The alto William Hariades appeared much more relaxed.  In smoking jacket and red tie, rather than the traditional black tie and tails, he strolled the stage as he performed.  His sweet and trembling voice was beautifully lead by the orchestra with Jan Spencer's violone providing a fluid continuo.  The second chorale was that humming chorus we enjoyed on Friday.  When Julian returned as the Evangelist his voice was now high, at the top of the tenor range, giving way to sweet woodwind from the orchestra.  The voice of bass William Townend was blissfully deep and did not obscure the choir (women only at this point).  Then came the Bach trumpets.  In a single loop like a trombone, but without slide or valves, the Bach trumpet was, and is, the most difficult baroque instrument to play.  Trumpeters commanded a premium rate for their playing, which they certainly earned.  The nigh notes were particularly difficult but expertly executed.  The adoration of the shepherds was as a gentle conversation between the voices in the choir - ending with a perfect sustain on the Kirie Eleison, as rehearsed on Tuesday.  Conductor Andrew Daldorph's sister Amy Daldorph sang beautifully with bass William Townend, her voice soft and not piercing and perfectly balanced with William's.
The man himself
Susan Gunn-Johnson
and husband
Ven. David Gunn-Johnson
Archdeacon of Barnstaple
The solo arias were often complemented by solo playing on the violone by Jan Spencer, but the counterpoint between Margaret Faultless and alto William Hariades took us to new heights of passion - complemented by the hammering of the rain on the roof of the Cathedral (again).  Other notable combinations were bass voice and baroque bassoon, alto voice and 'cello, and a wonderful trio by Margaret Faultless, Reinmar Seidler, and Jan Spencer playing violin, 'cello and violone.  We were taken from the extremes of Bach trumpets and tympani to Steve Glead's gentle viola.  Every combination of instruments and voices seemed to be covered, to the delight of the audience.  Every instrument seemed to get its solo moment as well, from the oboe d'amore to the resounding Bach trumpets.  The big finish was virtuoso trumpet and rousing singing from the chamber choir leading up to an enormous tympani finish, wide grins of pleasure from the choir, and impassioned applause from the audience.  A wonderful performance by the Exeter Chamber Choir with Devon Baroque.  Watch the 'Classical Journey' wesite for future concerts by this wonderful choir.

Jan Spencer tuning his violone
And Devon Baroque were back in action less than 24 hours later.  At 3pm on Sunday we had a memorial concert dedicated to baroque 'cellist Mike Edwards.  Devon Baroque, jointly founded by Mike and Margaret Faultless, was not his only project at the time of this tragic death.  Some of his other musical partners also performed: Compagnie Giulia, Ta Filia, Synchronicicty, Daughters of Elvin and the Viol Trio (for whom Mike composed the 'Trio for Viols').  It was quite extraordinary to see how many people had benefited from Mikes work over the recent years.  The music was beautiful throughout, but tinged with sadness at the loss of such a great musician and wonderful person.

Compagnie Giulia
Devon Baroque

Daughters of Elvin
Viol Trio

Everyone shows their appreciation
for Mike Edwards

Sonatas, Spirited and Serene:

'Cellist Hilary Boxer and Pianist Susan Steele

A joyous union
And on Monday at lunchtime, in the Exeter Central Library music room, we heard the eagerely awaited third concert in the 'Tasty Music' series.  'Cellist Hilary Boxer and pianist Susan Steele played 'Sonatas, Spirited and Serene', Bach's sonata for viola da gamba, Bocherini's 'cello and piano sonata in C, and Beethoven's 'cello sonata in A.  Hilary's incredible expertise with the 'cello is already familiar to admiring audiences.  Susan, although also familiar as an accompanist, was something of a revelation.  A striking figure, she is utterly mesmerising at the piano, building complex moods with consummate skill.  Hilary, of course, continued to amaze as always.  The final sonata, Beethoven, was utterly extraordinary.  Susan picked out single notes deftly in what was almost a jazz style in the lead up to each of her marvellous duets with Hilary.  All three sonatas were so well received that the audience were treated to an encore - Piazzola. Soft and gentle, Hilary described it as 'like a hot bath' after the the excitement of the three sonatas.  A perfect end to an exceptional and thrilling concert.  There are plans for a repeat performance of the Beethoven sonata in the future, and Mike Gluyas was there to record the performance.  So listen out for extracts on the 'Classical Journey'.

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