Friday, February 28


- November 3, 2019

This is always the most exciting BREMF event, as new talent has 20 minutes to show their worth to an audience that contains a few scouts and contacts who can seriously enhance their careers.

That said, it’s not a competition. Apparently some 90 ensembles applied to appear in this one event. The chosen four were therefore already winners so the atmosphere was supportive, and those new contacts could easily become happy bonds. BREMF certainly hopes to hear them all again in different roles and combinations, even when they have burgeoned into stars of the international circuit.

SCARAMELLA, a Renaissance vocal ensemble, observed the festival theme of metamorphosis with ‘A Kiss Transformed’, showing how the tune of a saucy medieval round ‘Baisez moy’ could be transformed into both jolly and stately chansons and also into music for the more ardent but pure love of the Mass. They made quite an entrance wearing Commedia dell’Arte masks but we’ll remember them for their perfect tuning and subtle blending.

MELISMATA ‘Musick for a while’. Emily Owen (soprano) and James Bramley (lute, theorbo) performed English and Italian music illustrating transformations, but essentially just songs and lute tunes that they love. Emily has already re-established her enthusiastic BREMF fan base, gained singing with Ensemble Ceruleo in 2015 and again this week in event 12: ‘Burying the Dead’. Her warm, expressive soprano and Bramley’s elegant playing could easily have made up a full concert programme. There was an element of jeopardy in that the resilient lutenist had just been swept to the ground by gale-force winds and received serious bruising to his arms and wrist. You couldn’t tell any of this in his performance!

ENSEMBLE THÉODORA ‘Folies Françaises’ The stylish instrumentalists – two violins, a viola da gamba and harpsichord would have stood out in a crowd for the grace of their playing alone. With their charm established, they revealed their ace, soprano Mariamielle Lamagat. Her exuberant stage presence did justice to Rameau’s plaintively faithful shepherd and his grotesquely mocking La Folie from ‘Platée’. The whole ensemble rose to the challenge of making such elegant music sound aggressive and rough. This bravura performance brought the house down.

APOLLO’S CABINET ‘Shadows of the Night’ was the last performance, as dusk fell on a stormy day. Another international quartet: recorder, violin, cello and harpsichord – how original could they be? Their opening Vivaldi movements were conventional enough and played in a way that explained the credits that they have already won. The recorder then sensuously evoked a nightingale and an impatient lover. Vivaldi’s ‘La Notte’ took us into an uneasy night which turned hysterical in Robert Johnson’s very Baroque Masque: ‘The witches dance’. The shrill howls and shrieks of the climax, so unusual from string players, made a delightful and extravagant end to the afternoon.

St Paul’s Church,
2 November 2019
Rating: ★★★★☆
Andrew Connal

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