Review: King's Singers and Sarband
We went to hear the King's Singers and Sarband last night, in a joint concert called Creating Sacred Bridges, exploring "the Parallels between Jewish, Christian and Muslim Liturgical Music."
The rather slender uniting thread:
Settings of the Psalms of David, revered and extolled in each of the three monotheistic religions, by composers from the 16th and 17th centuries, performed in Hebrew, French and Turkish.It should be noted that the the Jewish composer featured (Salamone Rossi) worked in the classic high Renaissance style and the Islamic composer (Ali Ufki) was a converted Polish Catholic (more about this below), so the range of styles is not as extreme as one might expect. No matter, it was a beautiful 72-minute program, perfectly performed with no intermission and no applause until the very end.
Visibility is nil in Duke Chapel unless you're in one of the first rows; almost all I could see was the entire head of the tallest counter-tenor, down to his adam's apple. The instrumentalists in Sarband were sitting and I never saw a one of them till the standing ovation. Also, the Chapel is cruel to diction - it was almost impossible to tell what language was being sung. However, the perfectly tuned sonorities of the a cappella ensemble, the gorgeous cadences, at full volume or exquisite pianissimo, hung in the air of that cathedral-like space and froze me in dazed satisfaction. It was the sexiest intonation I've heard in a long time. I could hardly breathe.
Sarband had a strong and expressive singer, too, and fine Turkish instrumentalists. They were a bit under-utilized.
|The only other thing I could see in the narrow, crowded Chapel: the two Whirling Dervishes who would stride in slowly, arms crossed across their chests, remove their black cloaks - kissing them and laying them carefully aside - and then began to turn, always in the same direction and at the same relaxed pace, arms raised and outstretched, wrists relaxed, heads lying to the side. It was, as intended, hypnotic, though during their second, extended appearance it popped irreverently into my head that they were like two ceiling fans set on "low." Another link.|
The King's Singers have been around since 1968 and have made some abominably cheesy recordings. I shudder to even think of them. Eleanor Rigby? Black gospel? So crashes and burns the concept of crossover. When providing the classic fa-la-las they have also sometimes been nauseatingly effete. But I have no complaints about the "Bridges" repertoire, nor the way they sang it. This current incarnation of the group appears to have excellent taste and I hope they make more recordings worthy of their voices.
Salamone Rossi, a very interesting character and the only composer I know of who set Hebrew liturgical texts in Italian Renaissance style, wrote some gorgeous pieces. I get the Triangle Jewish Chorale to sing a new one almost every year and the music is so good that even our, uh, less than expert renditions bring satisfaction.
Ali Ufki (1610-1675) was born in Poland, a Christian by the name of Wojciech Bobowski! He was "captured by Krim tatars [at the age of 13] and sold into Osman slavery where he converted to Islam and became the court musician of the sultan's seraglio!" He was, as well, a translator in the imperial court of that Sultan, Mehmed IV, in Constantinople - he spoke sixteen languages and translated the bible into Turkish!
Technorati Tags: Music, Review, King's+Singers