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This quality was most effectively demonstrated in an arrangement of Pulchra es amica mea, by Francesco Rognoni, after Palestrina. This was not an ensemble piece, but a solo performance by Fiona Russell, with chamber organ accompaniment. Her playing was exemplary; the piece sinuous and haunting. This was arguably the highlight of the concert.

Her accompanist, and director of the ensemble, Robert Howarth played several solo pieces during the recital, from William Byrd's The Queen's Alman to the splendidly quirky Pass' e mezzo by Giovanni Picchi. He performed with a brio which gave a welcome lift to the first half of the concert, and the harpsichord sounded remarkably strong and clear in the acoustics of the Banqueting Hall. He was also briefly interviewed, most informatively, on the group and its repertoire.

By the final set of the evening, the ensemble was in its stride, doing full justice to pieces by Banchieri and della Marra; and, in the process, proving that the lesser known, 'journeyman' composers were as capable as their famous counterparts of producing music of both complexity and sheer exuberance.

The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble
The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble

The concert is due to be broadcast as a lunch-time recital, on BBC Radio 3, some time in December 2002. Though something of a curate's egg, the best bits are well worth the hearing.

Copyright © 7 November 2002 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK


The other concerts in the series, all due for broadcast, are:

The Palladian Ensemble - Bach Revisited

Concordia - Music for the Royal Harp Consort

Floating Island: Music from the Court of Versailles

Alla Francesca - The Medieval Mediterranean




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