MUSIC / Broadening the mind: Musica Transalpina - Almeida Theatre
In a series of short introductions, I Fagiolini's director Robert Hollingworth steered ears in the right directions, and even provided an unforced chuckle or two. But the proof was in the singing, and after a little unsteadiness in the opening of Schutz's Feritevi viperete mordaci ('Strike, you biting little vipers'), the ensemble soon settled into the lively, characterful and stylish manner familiar from their recordings. The final item was revelatory. When Giaches de Wert is remembered today it is usually (to borrow Hollingworth's neat encapsulation) as 'a kind of second division Monteverdi'. I Fagiolini's radiant performance of Valle, che dei lamenti miei ('Valley, full of my lamenting') showed better than any verbal argument just how perilous it is to trust received opinions - in every aspect a magnificent finale.
Balance in the second programme - Richard Bernas and Music Projects' 20th-century 'Musica Transalpina' compilation - was more questionable. Schoenberg's Serenade does contain some uniquely beautiful writing, but whether the inspiration is elastic enough to stretch to well over half an hour is another matter. In retrospect it seemed to have taken up most of the programme, even though the pieces that framed it, Franco Donatoni's Arpege and Alexander Goehr's The Deluge, are hardly miniatures. Music Projects played it elegantly aud sympathetically, but for me the high point came not in baritone Nigel Leeson-Williams's rendition of the Petrarch setting, well though he coped with the angular vocal lines, but in the haunting clarinet solos of the dance movement - truly lovely playing by Nicholas Cox.
Even from the other side of the vast Schoenbergian expanse, memories of Donatoni's lucid, fastidious Arpege were strong enough to allow comparisons with Goehr's The Deluge, a piece which at first sounds tougher and more demanding, but whose involvement with Da Vinci's fragmentary text deepens as it progresses. The ending, in which a quiet, unsupported violin line is suddenly snuffed out, is especially haunting. After all this, Michael Finnissy's new Various Nations seemed a very light dessert, but while the combination of a gloriously snooty Victorian travelogue with Finnissy's sequence of folk-flavoured fantasies struck few sparks, the music provided an atmospheric background to Eleanor Bron's magnificent matriarchal narrative.
Arts & Ents blogs
There is a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refle...
The opening titles squeal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye…’. Oh Lord how I wish I could heave this series off...
Even though there was a complete absence of our favourite odd couple Brienne and Jaime, we got anoth...
'He was lucky he didn't die' - George Michael fell out of speeding car onto M1 motorway, according to eye witness
Further Space Oddity: Jeremy Paxman grills British astronaut Major Tim Peake in weirdly aggressive Newsnight interview
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
Cannes Film Festival 2013 review: Behind The Candelabra - Michael Douglas brilliantly captures Liberace's showmanship
Inferno author Dan Brown 'honoured' to be invited to join the Freemasons
- 1 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 2 Swedes set up 'ultimate Viking movie'
- 3 After woman sells virginity for $780,000, here are the results of our prostitution survey
- 4 China agrees to impose carbon targets by 2016
- 5 Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.