Another day of chamber music festivities and we welcome another blogger to the mix (although she is no stranger to the Festival!)…for Day Five of the Adam Chamber Music Festival Jacquetta Bell (who runs a small PR company in Nelson and is the Festival’s publicist) shares her experience of a virtuosic night of Bach by Candlelight….
Monday 2 Feb – from Jacquetta (written 3 Feb)
In 1968 when I bought the Brandenburg Concertos from the Disc Den in Dunedin I was also trying to like my coffee black. Both efforts at sophistication failed. Fortunately these days lattes are in and so is alt-country.
Here’s a confession from the festival publicist: you don’t have to know a lot about chamber music to gain it news coverage. I may not know much, but I do like it, though I struggle with anything composed after about 1900 (opening night’s Golijov was a fabulous exception).
I took my (literally) hot seat in the cathedral gallery, squeezed in with the video man and his gear, particularly keen to hear the Song Company from Australia. I’d written enough media releases about them to know how good this was going to be, and had a personal recommendation from none other than NZ opera great Patricia Payne, via her sister who was sitting next to me on opening night.
Bach by Candlelight was the first concert in the festival to sell out, so clearly I’m not the only punter who prefers the classical masters, and the romance of music by candlelight.
The concert opened dramatically, with Ayano Ninomiya, the Ying Quartet’s first violinist, on stage alone. She played two pieces, a Bach prelude and Eugene Ysaye’s L’Obession from Sonata for Solo Violin. Aside from marveling at the sheer memory skill in presenting these works alone with no music and no cues from other players, it was a truly virtuosic performance. I know the V-word gets a workout during the Adam – but it is the one that has to be used. My best bit was the quiet second movement of the Ysaye work.
Next up was Australia’s Song Company, three men and three women who clearly could each have followed a solo career but who’ve elected to be part of this marvelous group, under the amazing Roland Peelman, who provided the visuals: even from the back view and seated we could see his whole body drawing perfection from his singers. The six voices wove together in Jesu Meine Freude, filling the cathedral with a heavenly sound.
The benefit of having a song group in the festival is that each can star individually, as we heard in the next piece, the aria Erbarme Dich from the St Matthew Passion, with beautiful mezzo-soprano Hannah Fraser. This was one of the festival’s real collaborative treats, with three violins, a viola, cello, double bass and a lovely little chamber organ (who knew one of these was lurking in Nelson?) The double bass in particular gave an amazing depth to the performance.
Another aria was to come before interval – Mein Glaubiges Herze with soprano Mina Kanaridis, Robert Orr on oboe, plus violin, cello, double bass and chamber organ. Mina soared above the double bass and cello, then the violin joined in with the oboe, matching the human voice as the piece proceeded.
By interval there was quite a party atmosphere outside – the rain had cleared and it was a lovely balmy evening for a wine and a chat. My first time with the new cathedral loos – a great improvement!
Back indoors for the lovely treat of the Gamba Sonata no 3 in G minor. Douglas Mews elected to stick with the chamber organ rather than the prescribed harpsichord, and explained that this work was really a trio, with the keyboard taking the two harmony parts, leaving the viola to soar with the melody. Gillian Ansell from the NZSQ looked lovely in a long rainbow coloured gown, in this rare chance to take centre stage with her viola.
Goodness me, I’ve used up my word count and found I can more or less write a concert review. Still to come was the Cantata BMV 82 Ich Habe Genug, again a major collaboration with bass Alexander Knight, the full Ying Quartet, oboe, double bass and chamber organ.
By this stage it was like fitting in dessert after you’re already overeaten and though I loved it I have to confess to having the tiniest of naps a couple of times.
So that’s it for another day – next on my schedule is Stabat Mater on Wednesday. I can’t wait.