REVIEW : Canzona @ BREMF

October 24, 2021


Theresa Caudle violin
Mark Caudle viola da gamba
Alastair Ross harpsichord

Stuart O’Hara bass-baritone

The tales and heroes of antiquity were the themes of this performance of early french baroque music from Clérambault and Rameau; a section of short dramatic Cantates from the beginning of the 18th century given by CANZONA, one of England’s leading ensembles specialising in the performance of baroque music on period instruments.

Stuart O‚ÄôHara bass-baritone gave an¬†extradorinaiy range of emotions through the interplay of drama and emotion that the music expressed in these works, and although there were moments where the acoustics of St Martin’s vast vaults blunted some of the bold assertiveness of his singing the deep resonance carried the emotions across the rapt audience. ¬†O’Hara held the nuance of these pieces just right, pulling the focus back to the music ¬†when it needed to be and letting his voice wrap the narrative thrust and carry it across some rather splendid playing from Mark Caudle (viola da gamba). ¬†Theresa Causle’s violin accompaniment is simply breathtaking, capturing clarity of tone and meaning in her energetic and spritely approach to the score, along with Alistair Ross’s splendid harpsichord playing which filled every spare moment of the music with precise beauty. ¬†This is an extra special group of talented experts who manage to move beyond their clearly apparent mastery of these instrutmens into that delightful zone of combining talent, intellect and passion to produce these warm and frothy pieces.

Never a fan of Rameau, I was won over this evening by the light precision and clarity of the players, never allowing the intended seriousness of this music to win out, but keeping the emphasis on engaging and allowing the rather rococo narrative to do its thing, while giving the music space to shine. A rather splendid performance of¬†Marin Marais’¬†Le Labyrinth showcases the amazing textural ability of ancient music played to this standard, allowing the intertwining complex melodies of strange tonality to chase and search for meaning and resolution in the maze of possibility and music explored by the players, dissonances are pared and dissected and passed across to be explored form a different angle,¬†giving a feeling of a ¬†confusing search finally giving a natural chaconne to finish, it’s wonderful complex and surprisingly contemporary, and sheer fun to listen to.

BREMF live performances run until 25th October ¬†( with streaming events in Nov) ¬†including this evening’s (Sunday’s) ¬†concert of medieval cantigas telling of weird and wonderful miracles, over at at St Martins, full details and tickets here:¬†

Bar is cashless, so make sure you buy a ‘voucher’ for alcoholic drinks off the BREMF website before you go along, soft drinks you can ‘tap & buy’ there.

You can read the full program of this concert here