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Lack of balance

REX HARLEY experiences Il Vero Modo
in Cardiff on 12 February 2004


I came to this concert with high expectations, and left with a headache. Yet there were good things in between. This odd experience brought back a memory of a very different concert some years ago, in Edinburgh. On that occasion the performer was singer/guitarist John Martyn. It was a solo session at a small, even intimate, venue. He sang ballads to the accompaniment of acoustic guitar, which the audience loved; and horrendously loud, thrashy numbers to electric guitar and drum-machine. The more we begged him to stick to the ballads, the louder he cranked up the volume on the electronics. He was clearly feeling mischievous that night.

Il Vero Modo are, I suppose, a world apart musically speaking: a trio of young musicians -- finalists in last year's International Early Music Network Young Artists' Competition -- Steven Devine on chamber organ and harpsichord, Jamie Savan on cornetto, and soprano Faye Newton. Their concert, entitled Per Cantare e Sonare, consisted of pieces by Monteverdi and his lesser-known contemporaries, the cornetto often standing in for a second voice. And it began strongly, with Monteverdi's Venite Venite. All the notes in the right place and delivered with confidence and panache. Next came a duet for chamber organ and cornetto by Palestrina, in which Jamie Savan showed what a master he already is of this tricky instrument. Physically, he put me in mind of a cross between a young Michael Palin and the late, lamented David Munrow. Certainly he plays with the verve, and obvious love of his instrument, of the latter; and in his own, gentle, scholarly way, as he talked to the audience, he showed the wit of the former. All seemed set fair.

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Copyright © 17 February 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


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