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<<  -- 2 --  Rex Harley    LACK OF BALANCE


Then came another trio piece: Tulerunt Dominum by the early seventeenth century composer Benedetto Rè. And, rather than relaxing into the atmosphere of the Norwegian Church, and shaping her performance for the forty or so people in the audience, Faye Newton was cranking up the volume. I thought, during the interval, someone might have had a quiet word, but the noise level kept rising, until by the final number, a dramatic rendition of Monteverdi's Ed e puer dunque vero, her top notes could have cut through steel. Increasingly, the instrumental pieces came as a blessed release. Giovanni Picchi's Toccata showed off the chamber organ beautifully, sounding more like a church organ in some dusty, out of the way Italian town. Highlight of the evening was probably Cipriano da Rore's Ancor che co'l partire, for organ and mute cornetto, in which Jamie Savan really did seem to make the instrument sing. And Steven Devine's harpsichord work on three Passamezzi demonstrated some flamboyant fingerwork in the right hand.

But always there was the threat of the next vocal piece. It was as if Faye Newton were performing an identical concert but in a parallel universe, where the auditorium was ten times larger. In fact, even when she spoke to introduce an item the volume of her voice was noticeably louder than the other two performers. It was all very strange, and I really don't want to make sweeping judgments on her abilities as a singer on this one performance. She had a bit of a cold, that much was clear; and colds can do funny things to one's hearing. Technically, she was very sound, with a range of vocal colouration and good control in the lower registers. But the disparity of volume between her and the second 'voice' too often drowned out that voice, and the interplay between the two was robbed of its subtlety. The best effects were achieved in Ignatio Donati's O Gloriosa Domina, where the cornetto was placed, antiphonally, in the upper gallery of the church, behind the audience. What we heard was an echo, and echoes always are quieter. Unfortunately, the longer the concert went on, the shriller the top vocal registers sounded, and the more elegant and graceful the haunting voice of the cornetto.

This an enterprising group, who have researched their material carefully and offer the experience of a fascinating sound-world. If they were in a recording studio, a sound engineer would solve half their problems at the flick of a switch. But on the concert platform things are different. So much work has clearly gone into their preparations and rehearsals, it would be a shame if the current lack of balance stayed unnoticed or unresolved. Potentially, there is a genuine ensemble here, and a good one too.

Copyright © 17 February 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK



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