Monday, 3 October 2011

'Cellist Hilary Boxer and Guitarist David Cottam - Tasty Music: 'Sounds of Spain' The Corn Barn, Cullumpton Sunday 2 October

Welcome back! Ten months on 'cellist Hilary Boxer is back with another delicious series of 'Tasty Music' concerts. Last year ended with three gorgeous 'Cello+...' concerts, every four weeks at Monday lunchtime in the Exeter Library Music Room: 'Cello+Cello' with Jane Pirie on 11th October (details), 'Cello+Guitar' with David Cottam on 8 November (details), 'Cello+Piano' with Susan Steele on 6th December (scroll down the post 'and it came to pass . . . ' for details).

An essential part of all performances was the lovely sweets which go with the music - Mello 'Cellos and chocolate of course. But how about Spanish guitar and Seville oranges, or piano and 'cello sonatas by Bach and Boccherini with a batch of fresh Bakewell tarts? That's what makes Tasty Music such a captivating treat for the senses!

'Cellist Hilary Boxer and Guitarist David Cottam
in the sun-drenched Mediterranean-style setting of the Corn Barn, Cullompton
This year's series started with 'Sounds of Spain'. Reunited with guitarist David Cottam, Hilary has booked three venues for three separate performances of the new repertoire. Ironically one of the venues is no longer able to host 'Tasty Music' because of staff cuts - Exeter Central Library. However, the two alternative venues are absolutely delightful and more than make up for the loss. (It has been suggested that the library may start hosting concerts again in the new year - let's hope so.)

For a recital of music from the sunny Mediterranean, Yta and Ian Batchelor's 'Corn Barn' just outside Cullompton was ideal. The French windows were thrown wide and a soft breeze blew through the building, carrying with it the sound of birdsong outside. Before the concert began the ghostly sound of HIlary's 'cello could be heard echoing around the corridors as she warmed up for the recital in a distant room.

David Cottam plays beautiful Spanish guitar music in the afternoon sunshine

The afternoon's entertainment started at 4pm. 'Flavours of Spain', as Hilary introduced it, began with two very Spanish dances by Enrique Granados. 'Spanish Dance No 5' is so familiar, with its strange chords, written for the piano, but intended to sound like a guitar. Arranged for the guitar, of course they are perfect. Hilary's high trills and harmonics complement the music perfectly - as arranged by David himself.

The 'Dance Orientale' makes even more use of the 'cello, with a guitar introduction leading into rich and deep 'cello melodies, first major then minor, ending each time with those sweet high harmonics.

Next the mood became more Italian. Following in the tradition of Arcangelo Corelli, David had arranged some variations of Jean Baptiste Lully's 'La Folia'. Having been arranged for duet, they had to be called 'Folies a Deux'! After the opening theme the variations were all lovely. Counterpoint, 'cello staccato, guitar arpeggios, a slow minor melody, playful guitar with 'cello continuo and finally and inspired pizzicato variation for Hilary on the 'cello and grandiose march to finish.

Hilary Boxer adds her own luscious pizzicato sound on the 'cello
Heitor Villa Lobos was a 'cellist himself, but his Bach and Brazilian rain-forest inspired 'Bachianas Brazilieras' was written for guitar and piano. Segovia added a vocal line, which David has arranged for Hilary to play on the 'cello. Somethat deeper than a woman's voice, the 'cello's 'voice' is loud and plaintive, while the guitar is softly sympathetic. The sense of agonising longing was emotionally overwhelming.

The next piece reflected that in its title - Luis Martinez Serrano's Mexican song '¿Donde estas Corazon?' ('Where is your Heart?'). The song itself, however, introduced  a new and more up-beat feel to the music - the feeling of tango! In a thrusting dance rhythm the 'cello pizzicato matched the guitar's volume, until the very final bars when Hilary increased the volume and eclipsed the guitar by using her bow. A very startling and effective ending.

The familiar Boxer/Cottam favourite, 'Libertango' by Astor Piazzolla, is always a special treat. On Sunday afternoon there was some very exciting development of that popular theme. Flamenco style 'resquerdo' strumming, percussion on the 'cello fingerboard, and to really shake things up a sudden, and perfectly timed, stop.

Once again we had music by local composer Charles West, who lives in Plymtree. 'Fado' is the Portuguese sung poetry style which has been made popular by Lisbon fado singer Mariza dos Reis Nunes (originally from Mosambique). Charles West's 'Fado' is an exhilarating counterpoint between high guitar and deep 'cello (alternating bow and pizzicato). David's guitar part was incredibly crisp and clear. Delightful.

Julio Sagreras' 'Maria Luisa' was played in conjunction with David's own composition 'La Flamenquita' ('The Flamenco Fan') full of amazing flamenco flourishes - always played perfectly.

Flamenco Flourishes
Hilary and David then went on a whistle-stop tour of South America:
'La Cumparsitea' ('The Masked Parade' - of endless miseries. Not Argentine - Uraguayan!) the classic tango
'Villancico' ('Carol') - Peruvian - to a rhythm beaten out on the guitar bridge
'Punto Cubana' (a type of Cuban song) a rollocking dance, crazy for both instruments, but perfectly balanced.
'Cantico' ('Chant' - or lullaby) - Venezuelan - very gentle
'Paisillo' (from 'El Ultimo Besso' - 'The Last Kiss') - Equadorian - strumming on both instruments
'La Cucuracha' ('The Cockroach') - Mexican - a vehicle for endless crude lyrics about Mexican politicians. David had plenty of variations of his own - ending with guitar.

Finally, the piece which was arranged on a traditional tune, and regularly used as a defiant anti-Spanish finale, by Catalan 'cellist Pablo Casals. 'Cant des ocells' ('Song of the Birds') describes the songs of birds to baby Jesus - a popular Catholic image. In a tribute to Casals, David adds a glorious high trill on the guitar to finish the piece - and finished the concert in style. 'The Sound of Spain' (or rather Catalonia!). Beautiful.

Acknowledging the audience's appreciation
And the food to complement an afternoon of Iberian and South American music? Orange and Lemon cakes, home made and freshly baked. That's Tasty Music!
Tasty refreshments and plenty of room to run around!
'Sounds of Spain' will be repeated at least once - twice if an alternative venue can be found for the concert scheduled for the library. There are also concerts with piano and with a second 'cello,  just like last year, but repeated at different venues. Also this year is something new and very special - 'Cello+Flute' with Ruth Avis.

Sounds of Spain:
Hilary Boxer & David Cottam (guitar) - Granados, Villa-Lobos and Piazzolla
originally heard on Monday  8th November last year.
details: 'Tango!' 8/11/10
Sun 2 Oct, 4pm, The Corn Barn (Yta Batchelor 01884 32107)
Wed 12 Oct, 12.30pm, Bicton College (with lunch) 01395 562300
Mon 7 Nov, 12.30pm, TBA*

Sonatas Spirited and Serene
Hilary Boxer & Susan Steele (piano) - Beethoven, Bach and Boccherini
originally heard on Monday  6th December last year.
For details scroll down the post: 'And it came to pass . . . ' 6/12/10
Wed 5 Oct, 1pm, Queen's Theatre Barnstaple (01271 327357)
Wed 19 Oct, 12.30pm, Glenorchy URC Exmouth (free admission!)

'Cello Chaconne
Hilary Boxer & Jane Pirie (also 'cello) - classical/ trad/folk/jazz
originally heard on Monday 11th October last year
details: 'It was Wonderful!' 11/10/10
Wed 9 Nov, 12.30pm, Bicton College (with lunch) 01395 562300
Sun 13 Nov, 4pm, The Corn Barn (Yta Batchelor 01884 32107)
Mon 21 Nov, 12.30pm. TBA*

Festive Flute**
Hilary Boxer & Ruth Avis (flute) - Bach, Villa-Lobos, seasonal tunes
A new collaboration for Hilary, but Ruth is a well known local artist -
details: 'Songs for Flute and Piano' with pianist James Keefe 25/10/10
Also scroll down 'A Week of Music' 7/11/10 for details of
Ruth's 'Piazzolla Duo' concert with guitarist Clive Betts
Sun 4 Dec, 4pm, The Corn Barn (Yta Batchelor 01884 32107)
Mon 5 Dec, 12.30pm. TBA*
Wed 7 Dec, 12.30pm, Bicton College (with lunch) 01395 562300

Full details of all 'Tasty Music' concerts are available at

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