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A Fascinating Programme

English vocal and instrumental music
from Musica Mundi,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Bristol-based ensemble Musica Mundi (Clare Griffel, voice, Heather Gibbard, cello, and David Griffel, keyboard) put together a fascinating programme of English vocal and instrumental music from the seventeenth, eighteenth and twentieth centuries for this concert for Derby Chamber Music (Multi-Faith Centre, Derby University, Derby, UK, 14 March 2008).

The songs -- by Campion, Purcell, and William and Henry Lawes, among others -- were neatly sung, with some inventive ornamentation, and I liked the finely controlled diminuendo at the end of William Croft's A Hymn on Divine Musick. A somewhat unvaried tone and clipped delivery denied some of the music's expressive warmth, however.

Instrumental pieces included Purcell's Suite no 2 and the charming Cello Sonata No 3 by the little-known William Flackton.

Gillian Carcas' The ladies' defence was commissioned by Musica Mundi for the Purcell tercentenary in 1995. It sets a sequence of eighteenth-century proto-feminist texts with a delicious sense of irony, beginning in a straight-faced eighteenth-century idiom which it then deliberately subverts, neatly paralleling the original authors' challenge to the established order -- well worth hearing again.

Of the other twentieth-century works on the programme, Tippett's Songs for Ariel were generally effective, but lacked that sense of invitation into a mysterious inner world that is such an important dimension of these songs (and I'm sure Tippett didn't intend the 'bow-wow's of 'Come Unto these Yellow Sands' to be played for laughs). Of the two pieces on the programme from Herbert Howells' Howell's Clavichord, 'Dart's Sarabande' was given a thoughtful reading, and 'Jacob's Brawl' was suitably vigorous.

On the whole it was hard to avoid an overall impression of solid but rather uptight and colourless performances which didn't really make the expected impact.

Copyright © 26 March 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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