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<<  -- 2 --  David Wilkins    BAROQUE ON THE BOSPHORUS


There is a bit of a tendency with some early-music performers these days to look as if they are sucking-lemons and to play with a kind of four-square deliberateness that robs the music-making of much of its music and most of its making. I'm afraid this concert didn't entirely avoid that. Florilegium's flautist got his message across the footlights but, on the whole, the rest didn't. In Handel's Mi palpitar il cor, there was enough pathos from the counter-tenor and a very generous (very Ottoman, respect for the idea of the castrato, perhaps!) concentration from the audience. But the acoustics of the venue won over the desire to communicate. There wasn't a great deal to rave about.

The instrumental items, a couple of Vivaldi concertos, tended towards the effortful rather than the fun and the sublime -- they lacked the necessary fizz and seemed unfairly bland. Derek Lee Ragin got much more across to the audience when he dispensed with score and music-stand for the Telemann aria Amor nel mio penar. Here was genuine dignity that inspired the otherwise rather routine-happy instrumentalists to something a bit more festival-worthy.

Istanbul city crowds. Photo © Keith Bramich
Istanbul city crowds. Photo © Keith Bramich

The invitation to any kind of concert in the Church of St Saviour in Chora (Kariye Camii) was a prospect of Pavlovian salivation. This sublime building, protected from disfigurement by the saintly Theodore Metochites who oversaw its restoration from 1315-21, is blessed with a collection of mosaics and frescoes as breathtaking as the summit of Everest. Unfortunately, though it was still a joy of sorts to be there to listen to music, we weren't offered a restrained lute recital or the Bach cello suites but the invasive sound of a clarinet quintet -- far too loud for the intimate acoustic. Their take on Bartok's Romanian Dances worked wonderfully well as a wind arrangement and a modern Turkish piece by Ozkan Manav had plenty to interest. But guest artist, soprano Otilia Radulescu, singing Rachmaninov's Vocalise was a travesty of a lovely piece however pleasant her voice might have been in a more rewarding acoustical environment. The Ametist Clarinet Quintet could hardly be faulted for its technique (particularly wonderful in The Flight of the Bumblebee) but such music and such invasive overtones had no place in situ. It was a Normandy bombardment when one longed for the divine peace so overwhelmingly portrayed in the church's devotional panels. I hope the Festival will use this venue again and I'd be happy to hear the Quintet again -- just not in such a synergy-lacking combination!

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Copyright © 25 July 2004 David Wilkins, Eastbourne UK


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