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The other vocal possibilities -- Wallace alone and with Knowles -- are less frequently employed, though Wallace's baritone is also pleasant [listen -- track 3, 0:01-1:20]. Most of this repertoire was intended originally for either one singer with accompaniment or a madrigal-style four or five voice ensemble. To perform two parts vocally and the others on lute may be successful [listen -- track 14, 1:59-3:38] but is just as likely to unbalance the texture, which is presumably why LiveOak have largely avoided the combination. Short instrumental solos such as the Tastar de corde (the lutenists' equivalent of a toccata) by Dalza, separate the songs [listen -- track 16, 0:01-0:34].

Their performance style reminded me irresistibly but at first puzzlingly of the acoustic music coffee lounges of the seventies. Eventually I realised that the similarity pointed to an important strength: Duo LiveOak was reminding me of new, heartfelt music presented by people who understood it intimately (often its writers, after all) to an audience which appreciated it as a direct response to their shared experience. To restore this degree of immediacy to a repertoire four hundred and fifty years old is admirable.

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Copyright © 16 October 2005 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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