'Sounds of Nature' provides an aural feast

David Shavreen reviews the latest presentation of Blenheim Concerts

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An Afternoon of Mediterranean Music in the Sun


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The entertainment provided for us on Sunday, 13th March, was a delightful assemblage of pieces for soprano, flute and piano in various combinations reflecting man’s relationship with the sounds of nature.

Artists, unlike scientists, have highly coloured perceptions of what nature is all about, and this was reflected in the choice of items which was rich and varied and compassed a wide period of time, beginning with baroque Handel and Arne and ending with Messiaen and our own Cecilia McDowall. Geographically, too, there was a wide spread. France, Italy, Germany, Bohemia, America, Russia, all contributed their myths and legends where nature came wrapped in metaphors: Passion storming like a hurricane at sea, Love descending from Heaven like a cooing dove, lilacs parading their yearning with glossy heart-shaped leaves, red roses brandishing their painful thorns.

Jackie Dias (soprano) has a rich clear voice and a formidable technique which enabled her to trill like a lark in Arne’s’s Morning, to pass through raging storm to safe harbour in Handel’s Julius Caesar, and to swoon with longing in her address to the Moon from Dvorak’s Rusalka. There were refreshingly different songs from Aaron Copland, though the earthy singing required in his Old American Songs teetered uncomfortably between the Appalachians and Roedean.

Emma Williams (flute) gave a splendid display and was fully and tactfully integrated in Handel’s German Aria No.9, mourned admirably in his Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day where he celebrates the “soft, complaining flute” and painted vivid pictures in Debussy’s Syrinx where the wind singing through the reeds Inspired the god Pan to invent panpipes.

The trio was master-minded by the pianist, Richard Shaw, whose sensitive playing brought us Cecilia McDowall’s vision of the lagoon in Venice wrapped in mist like a Turner painting and echoing with tintinnabulation from Monteverdi’s Vespers. There were also the delights of Messiaen’s tribute to heavenly doves cooing in his very individual way, and the Moon, goddess of all nightly shenanigans, brought the show to an end presiding over the love pangs of the water nymph Rusalka. Altogether an aural feast for all musical palates.

David Shavreen

The next concert in the series will take place in the Chiswick Catholic Centre at 3.30 p.m. on Sunday, 15th May. The Arcadian Brass Quintet will give a programme prepared specially for children. Tickets £6.00 at the door (under 18s £3.00).

March 31, 2005

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