C17th German choral music
Musical Director Robert Hollingworth
Instruments led by Julia Black
Parish Church of St John, Wellington TA21 8QY
SUNDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2011
REVIEW submitted by Andrew Carter
PAST GLORIES REVIVED
On 11 September St John’s Church Wellington hosted the latest in the series of landmark concerts by Blackdowns Early Music Projects. A group of expert singers drawn from the UK and Europe, accompanied by an ensemble of strings, chamber organ and three sackbuts (early trombones) offered a varied and fascinating programme, ‘Out Of Saxony’, showing how Italian musical innovations influenced composers in 17th-century Germany. The inspirational Director was Robert Hollingworth, whose professional ensemble ‘I Fagiolini’ recently had a CD listed in the pop, as well as the classical, charts. That speaks volumes about the accessibility and contemporary appeal of ‘Early’ Music.
The immediacy and direct emotional impact of this music was amply demonstrated by Sunday’s skilfully constructed programme. The first part consisted of mainly sacred choral and instrumental pieces by Schutz, Schein and Scheidt (as Robert Hollingworth remarked, ‘ they sound like a firm of 17th century lawyers!’). As the informative programme notes made clear, this trio of near-contemporaries, born in the 1580s, were able to absorb the emerging Baroque style and adapt it to local circumstances, while living through the ravages of the Thirty Years War which retarded German civilisation by decades. Both the sufferings of the time, and the enduring passionate adherence to religious faith, find eloquent expression in intricate and expressive music which was convincingly interpreted by the eager and attentive singers and players.
The second part of the programme moved forward two generations, to the end of the 17th century. In music by Geist and Kerll the Italian influence showed itself in extended virtuoso solo passages for singers and instrumentalists. St John’s proved itself the ideal venue for this music, with separate galleries accommodating soloists and even entire choirs!
Blackdowns Early Music Projects have a reputation for devising coherent, instructive programmes of lesser-known repertoire which are as rewarding and enjoyable to listen to as they are to perform. All credit is due to the musicians, who put the concert together over three hard-working days, and to the organisers, Catherine and Geoffrey Bass. Music- lovers will look forward to the next offering, ‘Il Pastor Fido – The Faithful Shepherd’, at All Saints Church, Culmstock on 2 October at 6.30 pm.