Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Music: Striggio and Tallis: Music in 40 Parts

I Fagiolini

Conducted by Robert Hollingworth
Perth Concert Hall
February 27, 2012

In a way I’m glad that Robert Hollingworth and his I Fagiolini chose Senfl’s silly little Glaut zu Speyer, complete with clockwork arm movements, as the encore after their astounding performance of polyphonic masterpieces from the sixteenth century, anchored by two pieces for 40 parts, Allesandro Striggio’s Missa ‘Ecco si beato giorno’ and Thomas Tallis’s famous Spem in alium.
Perhaps Hollingworth deliberately tempers his approach to music of such transcendent beauty by keeping things fairly light-hearted around the edges. If he hadn’t, I would have been a danger on the roads, such is its power to take you up and away.
Apart from praising all the musicians who contributed to this wonderful evening, Hollingworth and the eight perfect voices in I Fagiolini, Joseph Nolan and the admirable St George’s Cathedral Consort Choir, Paul Wright and his fine instrumentalists (many of whom I assume were from UWA’s School of Music) and the sublime cornetto player Gawain Glenton, I freely confess I’m not capable of seriously analysing this music or the technical quality of this performance.
So let’s be a little frivolous about it too. Despite its beauty, and the high religious tone of its subject matter, there is something very playful and wide-eyed about this music. These guys were the Brian Wilsons of their day, stumbling on the Renaissance version of stereo and, like the Beach Boys’ genius, going for it for all they were worth. I’ve no doubt the music was an uplifting spiritual experience and a vital copasetic to its first listeners (anything that could take your mind of smallpox and poisoners would have to be), but it was also designed to stimulate their dull sublunary senses in the right here and now, even as it opened a window to the hereafter. The pulse of the sound, its sweeping panorama, the erogenous, logical pleasure of forty voices singing forty different parts coming back together for the Amen.
It’s an orgy in the ears, and the Good Vibrations of its era. If God was Walt Disney, and Heaven was in Anaheim, this would be the music playing in Fantasylandl.

Here's Robert Hollingworth to explain it properly:
And you can link here to Big Bill Yeoman's take in The West.

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