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Ensemble

Madrigal comedy

KEITH BRAMICH enjoys I Fagiolini's performances
of English and Italian music, old and new

 

Robert Hollingworth and his vocal ensemble I Fagiolini (Italian for 'the little beans' -- for some reason I want to call them 'the beanlets') are a shining example of a young group at the cutting edge of modern performance practice. Professional singers with slick, polished, accurate singing and a confident stage presence, they're experts in claiming the attention of an audience and then keeping it, whether with their singing, acting or Robert's performer/audience barrier-breaking commentaries and explanations.

I Fagiolini
I Fagiolini

I Fagiolini's concert on 7 July 2002 at the UK's Cheltenham Festival -- a major festival with a reputation for contemporary music, based in a large Regency town close to the Cotswold Hills -- took place in the splendid (and, as Robert would have us believe, much-Spoonerised) Pittville Pump Room -- a venue with a larger-than-life acoustic that proved more of a problem in the afternoon rehearsal than when filled to capacity with sound-absorbing festival-goers for the evening performance.

Cheltenham's Pittville Pump Room - venue for the I Fagiolini Cheltenham Festival concert on 7 July 2002. Photo: Keith Bramich
Cheltenham's Pittville Pump Room - venue for the I Fagiolini Cheltenham Festival concert on 7 July 2002. Photo: Keith Bramich

The first half was devoted to music by 20th century and contemporary English composers, beginning with three pieces all written in around 1952 and 53 : Dance, Clarion Air -- a rich, dissonant and energetic fanfare-like madrigal setting of Christopher Fry by Michael Tippett (1905-1998); Silence and Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), a reflective setting of words by the composer's wife, Ursula Wood, during which we hear our first magical solos from the group, and Inheritance -- another rich setting -- less dissonant, though, than the Tippett -- by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) to words by Walter de la Mare.

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Copyright © 9 July 2002 Keith Bramich, Worcestershire, UK

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I FAGIOLINI

ADRIAN WILLIAMS

CHELTENHAM FESTIVALS

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