Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cleveland Classical Guitar Society: Ancient Melodies, Modern Echos

Dowland: In Darkness Let Me Dwell
Britten: Songs from the Chinese, Op. 58 Mvts. I and II
Dowland: If my Complaints Could Passions Move
Britten: Songs from the Chinese, Op. 58 Mvts. III and IV
Dowland: All Ye, Whom Love or Fortune
Shaw: Come Again (again)
Dowland: Come Again
Britten: Songs from the Chinese, Op. 58 Mvts. V and VI
Dowland: Shall I Strive With Words to Move
Britten: Nocturnal After John Dowland, Op. 70
(Esteli Gomez, soprano; Colin Davin, guitar. At the Plymouth Congregational Church, Shaker Heights)

Tonight Rachel and I took the short jaunt from my home up Coventry to the Plymouth Congregational Church in Shaker Heights, home to Cleveland Classical Guitar Society's International Series. Tonight's concert was a bit different than the others we've attended in that the evening's guitarist Colin Davin was accompanied by soprano vocalist Estili Gomez.

The arrangement of the program -- interleaving John Dowland (1563-1626) principally with works by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) and compared with Caroline Shaw's (b. 1982) Come Again (again) certainly gave weight to the program title of Ancient Melodies, Modern Echos.

Opening with In Darkness Let Me Dwell, I was struck by ethereal if melancholy vocals and relatively simple music, and the first two movements from Britten's Songs from the Chinese (The Big Chariot and The Old Lute) contrasted withe a bit lighter mood and, especially The Old Lute a hint of playfulness. While I've had mixed feelings about Britten, I thought it was most interesting listening to tonight's program that from the sounds of the music and lyrics alone I don't know that I could tell you that roughly 350 years separated the two composers.

While neither Rachel nor I had strong reactions to the melancholy if not outright depressed If my Complaints Could Passions Move, the accompanying movements from Britten held my interest -- The Autumn Wind was both lighter in spirit and faster in tempo than the preceding movements; and The Herd Boy seeming to take the guitar technique up a notch. All Ye, Whom Love or Fortune may cement the modern listener's impression that John Dowland suffered from depression -- all of his works, at least all of the works on tonight's program were at best melancholy.

The last piece on the first part of the program, composer Caroline Shaw's Come Again (again) was programmed before the work that it was homaged to and had a number of interesting facets particularly the horizontal playing position for the introduction of the work,  and the use of a tonebar to achieve dramatic changes in pitch and -- I could have sworn -- at one point a flute-like sound.

Following a brief intermission, Dowling's Come Again offered a vocal clarity as well as a sense of hopefulness; Britten's compliments came from Movements V and VI (Depression and Dance Song) which included a sustained vocal and a return to the unusual playing position and use of the tone bar seein in the introduction of Come Again (again)

The program concluded with Britten's Nocturnal after Dowland, completely instrumental with the exception of the last movement and enough sonic textures to satisfy all tastes throughout. I was particularly struck by the sound, about midway through the work, that sounded much like the felt heads of the hammers on a piano striking.


No comments:

Post a Comment