Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Renaissance Man

From the Vault Dept.: My daughter’s interest in the lute has led me to unearth some of my own encounters with that charming instrument, as set down in reviews like this one, from 1990.


SOMETIMES I THINK Michael Jaffee is an actual Renaissance musician who found himself in 20th-century New York one day. He looks frighteningly authentic as he sits bent over his lute, strumming airs and harmonies of several centuries ago.

Michael and Kay Jaffee
During a solo in the middle of Monday night’s concert at the Troy Music Hall, the gentle sound of the lute – it’s a very quiet instrument – filled the hall as if scented with a subtle perfume. All sounds of audience restlessness stopped for a moment because everybody sensed that something magical was happening.

“Italia Mia” was the title of the concert, which took us on “a musical tour of Italy in the Renaissance.” The ten-member Waverly Consort, each an expert singer and/or instrumentalist, conveyed the passions and problems of an ancient world with tasteful effortlessness.

An interesting moment occurred near the end, during a lighthearted set of “music and scenes on the streets and canals” of 16th-century Venice and Naples: Orazio Vecchi’s “Non vuo pregare” was sung as a duet between baritone Paul Rowe and tenor John Olund, lamenting the lack of attention from a loved one.

They spoke English translations to the Renaissance equivalent of a vamp before singing the Italian verses. Hearing English spoken after over an hour of bygone Italian was a shock, so easy is it to be drawn into the spirit of a Waverly Consort event.

Otherwise, no English was heard during the concert. Nothing was introduced; no continuity provided from the stage. Although I’m getting more and more inclined to welcome that kind of intercourse between performers and audience, this group casts such a spell that it’s probably better left unbroken by contemporary intrusions.

Also, they offer the handsomest program book in the touring-ensemble world, providing not only texts and translations but also accessible, scholarly essays on the music and its history.

It’s remarkable to consider that this program took us from the early 15th century to the early 17th. Our ears are accustomed to recognizing the many musical changes that have occurred since then, but the changes of three and four centuries ago are much more subtle.

Which is why a concert like this is as edifying as it is pleasurable. You can listen for the sheer joy of it; you can study the stylings of the different areas and times represented. Our tour led us through festival music and music for the Medici in Florence, lute dances of Northern Italy, court songs, dances and madrigals of Milan, Mantua and Ferrara, and a look at cross-currents in Rome, Naples and Florence. And a side-trip to the streets of Venice and Naples.

Adam Gilbert opened the concert with a bagpipe procession in the foyer; the Troy Music Hall adores this kind of music because it takes such excellent advantage of the superior acoustics, so that procession was very effective. Other instrumentalists are Kay Jaffee, who switches among recorders, harp and percussion, and Rosamund Morley, playing the stringed rebab and viols.

Other singers are countertenor Larry Lipnik, who also doubles on viol; soprano Rita Lilly, mezzo-soprano Laura Pudwell and tenor Stephen Sturk.

– Schenectady Daily Gazette, 25 April 1990

No comments: