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Friday, 10 July 2015

The best and worst of York Early Music Festival Young Artists’ Competition (day 1) - work in progress

The best and worst of York Early Music Festival Young Artists’ Competition (day 1)

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

9 July (updated 11 July)

The best and worst of York Early Music Festival Young Artists’ Competition 2015 (Day 1, on Thursday 9 July)

For the first time that one remembers, being around when York Early Music Festival (@yorkearlymusic) has young performers in competition (although only for day 1, Thursday 9 July), but previous winners have been heard before (including Le Jardin Secret, and, one of their supporters suggested, La Morra this year).

Order of performance :
1. Amsterdam Corelli Collective
2. Ensemble Ancor
3. Diapason
4. Il Giorno Felice
5. Sollazzo Ensemble

The National Centre for Early Music (St Margaret's Church, Walmgate, York)

Order of increasing [perception of] merit :

Diapason (3) ~ Cello and harpsichord

One is no expert as to whether the way in which a cello is being played is ‘authentic’, but the bow-hand really did not look as it did with that of the cellist of Il giorno felice the sound definitely resembled the vibrant, but modern, style of the approach of a great such as Rostropovich.

Please also see below (under Sollazzo Ensemble) about what ‘fits in’ with our early-music ears and eyes as to performance practice and ‘stock’ sound…

Sollazzo Ensemble (5) ~ Fiddles, harp, clavisimbalum, voices

If one were told that this was not meant to be a Balkanized take on works by fourteenth-century composers, or that they had set texts in Italian, one could not credit it.

Of course, the uniformity of the sound police can be accused for associating a sort of tone with the music of Mozart, and saying that what strays outside is ‘wrong’. However, did this ever sound as though what one might have expected were being infused with, say, what Joglaresa does by way of realising mediaeval compositions ?

Amsterdam Corelli Collective (1) ~ Strings and harpsichord continuo

Nice to have the thrill of a large period-instrument ensemble, but it is also an undesired challenge when not everything in the ensemble (qua sound-world) is fully in register.

Of course, playing with gut-strings is authentic, but, if one is not in control of and so can adjust for the variability of tone and pitch, the unmet technical challenge becomes an auditory one…

Ensemble Ancor (2) ~ Recorder quartet

The reflective, thoughtful approach of this ensemble was welcome, although one was unsure about the historicity of usually making long breaths through the instrument, only occasionally accenting / articulating notes with shorter ones.

That said, interference fringe-effects are exciting in the right place (e.g. the work of Steve Reich), but, when resonance sometimes almost overwhelms the musical-line, something seems amiss* : tuning, or harmonic compatibility / integrity of instruments ?

Il Giorno Felice (4) ~ Cello, recorder and harpsichord

This felt like musicality accent and rhythm at the intelligent service of the flow of the instrumental lines, as were pacing, phrasing, and mood (even if Catherine Bott (@CatherineJBott) and others found the balance not quite right between tenor recorder and cello).

Michaela Koudelková’s dexterity and sound quality matched that of Red Priest’s Piers Adams, but without extremes of showmanship or ‘sheen’ and not the ‘blockish’ style of instrument used by Ensemble Ancor, and a different approach to tongueing / style (please see above).

Those, at least (and for what they are worth), are @THEAGENTAPSLEY's observations... for the NCEM web-site now announces :

Congratulations to Sollazzo Ensemble, Nexus Baroque, Consone Quartet all prize winners in this year's York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.

The names of the prize winners can be seen here in full, but Sollazzo Ensemble, only rated four out of five in this posting, unsurprisingly won the lion's share (as they were very popular on the day)...

The Finalists : Sollazzo Ensemble are, of course, in the front, but Catherine Bott is also there in the second row, to the left of the three members of Il Giorno Felice (far right)


* By contrast, with a paired set of instruments (such as La morra used), jointed at the mouth to allow both to be played at once, it is a deliberate effect.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

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