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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

England Study Tour 1975 - 10

Wednesday, June 25
Back to London -- to Southlands College of Education -- nice campus -- very cordial greeting by Eve Halsey and the Bursar, etc. -- in the evening to Cosi fan Tutte, Colin Davis conducting [Covent Garden again] -- we enjoyed it very much, although the combination of heat and the upper slips made it difficult -- Colin Davis' conducting was excellent -- as with Solti, he has excellent control at all times -- his conducting very clear and expressive -- it was particularly interesting to see him balance things in the many ensemble numbers: very actively controlling singer dynamics -- the two female leads [Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Fiordiligi and Anne Howells, Dorabella] were a bit disappointing: voices a little too wobbly and unagile to make the lines really sound "Mozartean" -- "Come scoglio" did't quite come off -- the triplet runs sounded like an arpeggio because you could only really hear the first note of the three -- the other singers [Rudiger Wohlers, Robert Kerns, Richard Van Allan, Judith Blegan as Despina] were good - the tenor was very uneven (he was a replacement that evening) -- at times he sounded marvelous and sometimes he had strange intonation problems.

Most everyone else went to hear the Saltarello Choir -- mostly a blase or negative reaction -- Neil made a tape for us, however, and they really sounded quite good -- perhaps there were some non-musical things that affected everyone's attitude

Thursday, June 26
We would spend the next three days at the St. Alban's Festival:
To St. Alban's (organ festival) to hear the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and the King's Singers -- St. Alban's is an interesting little town -- lots of newer buildings, but not too tacky -- the Cathedral is huge (longest nave in England) -- very interesting both inside and out because you can see where older parts of the building were added on -- beautiful dark-stained wood ceilings -- all around the altar, beautiful stone carvings -- an absolutely ugly sculpture of a white bird (or gull?) hanging above the organ console -- the Academy gave an absolutely beautiful concert: Telemann's Don Quixote Suite beautifully done (they need no conductor--a conductor would just get in the way) -- 7 violins, 2 vlas, 2 celli, & bass -- a Vivaldi cello concerto played by the 1st cellist -- marvelous playing of a Handel Concerto Grosso -- particularly the double-dotted things in the opening movement -- Bach's 3rd Brandenburg Concerto started with not quite as good ensemble as in the other music, but soon settled in -- written out 2nd movement for violin and continuo: not interesting, didn't seem to go anywhere or really develop anything -- the last movement marvelous -- they used only two cellos, the bass playing the 3rd cello part -- last thing on the program was an early Haydn organ concerto, not a very interesting piece -- not played particularly well (not enough variation in articulation) -- a chamber organ was used -- orchestra overall played marvelously: gorgeous tone, they seemed involved and as if they were really enjoying it (maybe the lack of a conductor!) -- I wonder if the leader takes over the interpretive duties, or if that is a group effort.

King's Singers were excellent -- all are extremely good showmen -- their "act" is very well worked out and very funny -- musically they are excellent: good ensemble and pitch -- excellent voices (although I got tired listening to the blond countertenor) -- most impressed with the bass of the group (2 countertenors, 1 tenor 2 baritones, 1 bass) -- his voice was very full and open-throated -- a perfect bass line for the group to build upon -- [Paul] Patterson's Time Piece is amusing -- I'll have to ask him if it's all right to adapt sometime for another group [Bob Scandrett did exactly that] -- a highly enjoyable day

This was early in the King's Singers' careers, at least as far as Americans were concerned. The note on our itinerary said, " The King's Singers are graduates of King's, Cambridge, who sing a wide variety of repertoire for small male ensemble, from 16th century to the Hi-Lo's"

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