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Greenwich Early Music Festival November 2012

Another hectic and crowded three days of (mostly) early music at Greenwich.

For us, the lynch-pins were two exceptional masterclasses, by Dan Laurin and Adrian Chandler (both represented in earlier EMF reports on Musical Pointers).

They both emphasised maximising emotional expression in the melodies and rhetorics of 17/18th C instrumental music, and did wonders improving the communication of gifted young recorder players. Sophie Westbrooke (Junior RAM), an amazingly adept and responsive 13 yr old, quickly improved her approach to Castello's 1st Sonata, helped by Laurin's own keyboard partner Anna Paradiso.

Adrian Chandler (in the bright modern Clore Learning Centre) worked with RAM's Laslo Rozsa at bringing to vivid life a sonata by Fontana, whose scores lack any performance indications at all !

Eva Fegers had been a worthy Moeck/SRP prize-winner last year, but her winner's solo recorder recital programme was unwisely chosen, with too many works sounding similar, her fluent decorations becoming progressively uninteresting; a modern piece with tape included for contrast (Zdralek, 1973) quickly outstayed its welcome.

See Eva (for a week) on the BBC R3 Early Music Show, in a few short pieces which sound fine [Eva Fegers @ 53 mins].

Of the concerts we were able to attend, we particularly enjoyed HM's Sagbutts & Cornetts (unusual to hear them on their own), the Rose Consort of viols and the high accomplishment of Philomel [below in St Alfege Church] "a new ensemble of five of the country's leading performers of Renaissance music" welcoming back to Greenwich Philip Thorby and colleagues (q.v. greenwichemf2006 ) to lead his versatile group of multi-instrumentalists - and singers all...

Thier superb programme of Shakespeare-related English ballads and dances ought to re-appear as a DVD (too much of its pleasure would be missed on CD).

Of the demonstration concerts in the Exhibition we heard several including an Electric Viola da Gamba (!).

But of those, the most enduring memory was of the beauties of Giovanni Tardino's renaissance flute and harp in the King William Undercroft (hear them on Clare Beesley's lovely CD with Leah Stuttard, Catch As Catch Can, from whom I hope to hear more.

The final EUBO concert of Handel, Corelli & Muffat (conductor Lars Ulrik Mortenses' favourite) was a resounding success.

For the 3-days festival as a whole, the final recital by Dan Laurin & Anna Paradiso stood out for their repertoire with witty presentation and audience involvement - Laurin had people in the front row look after some of his recorders, and he improvised duets with a mobile phone and a passing police siren ... Laurin's very personal new take on the Marais Folies d'Espagne was dazzling. Joyous music making !

The exhibition brought together as astonishing a variety of early instruments as you'll ever see - here are the Christopher Monk Serpents and Cornetts in the convivial atmosphere where world-wide specialists met up again!

Peter Grahame Woolf