Archi d’Amore Zelanda with delightful programme of New Zealand compositions, plus Bach

Archi d’Amore Zelanda
Donald Maurice (viola d’amore), Jane Curry (guitar), Inbal Megiddo (cello)

David Hamilton: Imagined Dances
J.S. Bach: Suite no 1 in G major for solo cello
Michael Williams: Archi Antichi

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 14 June 2017, 12.15 pm

The ensemble brought a thoroughly delightful programme to an appreciative audience.  What was unusual was that apart from the solo Bach work, the music played was contemporary, whereas one would expect that the viola d’amore would be playing music from a much earlier times.  The programme notes included this comment ‘…the instrument has been enjoying a renaissance since the mid-twentieth century, with new works being composed and old works being adapted…’

Just over a year ago I reviewed a concert of Vivaldi music performed by Archi d’Amore Zelanda, which on that occasion consisted of eight players.

The common factor between the items was that all were suites of movements (almost all) based on dances.

The David Hamilton work suffered from the fact that all three instruments were stringed, whereas the composer’s original had been for flute, violin and guitar, though the composer had approved the version we heard.  The original would have had more contrasting timbres than this version.  Thus, in this version individual instrumental lines and characters did not always stand out; the closeness in pitch of the guitar to the viola d’amore was another factor.  The Williams work, on the other hand, was written for these instruments, and it was constructed differently, with more solo, or solo and accompaniment passages.

Hamilton’s dances began with a pensive Sarabande, a slow dance.  A flamboyant Tango followed, then a Waltz with a lilting melody; after a slow introduction, it was fast and rhythmic.  The final Mexicana had stirring rhythms and repetitive phrases, with a shriek at the end.

Inbal Meggido made some introductory remarks, as did Donald Maurice at the beginning of the concert, but unlike him, she held rather than used the microphone, so I did not catch most of what she said.  However, her performance of Bach’s first Suite for Cello was superb.  Never have I heard it played with such variety of dynamics and tone.  The opening Prelude was a statement in which her playing overcame familiarity; its freshness was a delight.  There was a fine resonance, and very subtle bending of the rhythm.

The Allemande was gracious but at the same time rhythmically sparkling.  Courante was a fast and spirited run.  Meggido’s variety of tone and dynamics gave the music meaning.  There was nothing mechanical about the playing.

The Sarabande, being slower and more thoughtful was an excellent contrast to its predecessors.  Minuets 1 and 2 were bright and vigorous, working up to the lively Gigue that ended the Suite.  This was a splendid performance.

Archi Antichi was written for Archi d’Amore Zelanda, and as the title indicates, was based on antique dances, to some extent.  It consisted of Fugue, Cavatina, and Arrhythmia (though missing its first ‘h’; commemorating the heart condition the composer had experienced).  As Donald Maurice said in his remarks opening the concert, it was somewhat ‘Lilburnish’ – particularly in the opening movement, I found.

Jane Curry introduced the work, and I was pleased to hear her pay tribute to Marjan van Waardenberg for the work she does organising these lunchtime concerts.

The Williams work began with the cello alone, in Bach-like manner.  The others joined in with pizzicato.  Moving into a minor key, the music became more complex, the parts following their individual lines clearly, but nevertheless making a pleasing and cohesive whole.  A slower section again had each instrument complementing the others in a satisfying way.

The cavatina had a slow, undemonstrative start, followed by a strong but mournful duet for cello and viola d’amore.  The guitar joined in after a time, in a beautiful piece of writing.  The other instruments blended gorgeously in accompanying the melody.  The “Arrythmia” featured pizzicato in an off-beat rhythms and good interplay between the parts before the music became agitated; it ended with a delicious little motif – perhaps saying ‘everything is all right now’, to end a fine concert of interesting and well-played music.





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