Beyond The Spanish Golden Age: Raquel Andueza & La Galanía, May 13; Concerto 1700, May 14, both at National Centre for Early Music, York
THE Spaniards rode into town over the weekend.
There is nothing quite so invigorating as hearing music that you have never had the chance to encounter before. Thanks to the sponsorship of Instituto Cervantes, the Spanish equivalent of the British Council, two groups introduced works that were certainly new to these ears and doubtless to many others in the enthusiastic audiences.
Raquel Andueza is a soprano who co-founded her support-group, La Galanía, which normally comprises violin, guitar and theorbo. Even without its violinist, who was indisposed on this occasion, they are a lively combo. They concentrated on 17th century songs and dances of a distinctly earthy character, with lyrics that sometimes left little to the imagination.
The jácara was a romance – we might call it a ballad – usually with a low-life character at its heart. The zarabanda – before the French turned into a sober sarabande – was a wildly erotic dance in its original Spanish and Mexican form, even being banned at court as early as 1583.
These, along with the folia, a lively dance-song, formed the backbone of mainly anonymous works that have been rediscovered in collections outside Spain, mainly in France, Italy and England.
Andueza’s light soprano relished the nuances in her lyrics, in a programme entitled I Am Madness, after Henry du Bailly’s famous song to anonymous lyrics with which she opened.
Andueza’s style was catchy and charismatic, made immensely more so by the stylish, distinctively ethnic playing of baroque guitarist Pierre Pitzl and theorbist Jesús Fernández Baena. They stroked and strummed with panache, alternating the percussive with the delicate. It was intoxicating.
Concerto 1700, as its name implies, takes its repertoire from the 18th century. The string trio was the dominant ensemble at the Madrid court during the reign of Charles IV, who ruled from 1788 to 1808 until deposed by Napoleon’s brother. Madrid was a magnet for Italian composers in particular. Boccherini was the best known of them and invented the guitar quintet there.
His Second String Trio, Op 34, was packed with gripping detail: headlong scales in thirds involving the two violins; a virtuoso cadenza for the cello ranging over the whole spectrum, coolly despatched by Ester Domingo, during the minuet’s trio (not a place where you expect much action); a chromatic Adagio studded with brisk interjections and ending with a violin cadenza for leader Daniel Pinteño; and a dashing final rondo. The ensemble took all this in its stride.
Cayetano Brunetti, another Italian immigrant, took on a Spanish name – he was christened Gaetano. He produced some dashing coups in his Sixth Trio, notably abrupt breaks in mid-phrase, even more daring than Haydn, and a racy finale studded with birdsong.
These alone were eye-openers, but they were complemented by two trios composed by local talent José Castel that were brimming with good humour. His opening movements, deceptively marked Allegretto Gratioso, were anything but, quite volatile in fact.
What made Concerto 1700 so satisfying were the intimate reactions between the players, with the expressive features of the second violinist, Fumiko Morie, a weather vane of emotions linking her colleagues. As a result, their ensemble was everywhere remarkably taut.
These concerts were the first at the NCEM to be sponsored by Instituto Cervantes. We must earnestly hope that they will not be the last. This music deserves much wider currency than it has received so far in this neck of the woods. It’s simply too good to waste.
SOPRANO Raquel Andueza & La Galania and Concerto 1700 will perform in York next month as the National Centre for Early Music, York, strengthens its relationship with Spanish musicians despite the cold shoulder of Brexit.
The Beyond The Spanish Golden Age concerts on May 13 and 14 will celebrate a new relationship with Instituto Cervantes and the Spanish National Centre for the Promotion of Music (CNDM, Madrid) and the INAEM (Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sports) within the framework of the Europa Project.
Performances in York and London will showcase Spanish musicians specialising in Spanish baroque music as part of a project to promote and support such musicians and to demonstrate the richness, uniqueness and quality of Spain’s musical heritage.
In the opening 7pm concert at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, award-winning ensemble La Galania & Raquel Andueza will focus on the Spanish Golden Age of the Baroque, as seen through the eyes – and ears – of the wider European community with music by Henry du Bailly, Jean Baptiste Lully, Enrico Radesca and more.
Basking in the rhythms, sounds and soft breezes of 17th century Spain, the programme combines music of passion, jealousy, love, sweetness, reproach and even death in the name of love.
In the La Galania line-up are Pierre Pitzl, baroque guitar, Jesús Fernández Baena, theorbo, and Pablo Prieto, violin.
Concerto 1700, founded in 2015 by violinist Daniel Pinteño, highlight Music of the Spanish Enlightenment in a sparkling 7pm programme of 18th century string trios by Castle, Boccherini and Brunetti on May 14.
Written to please both the Royal Court of Madrid and a civil society eager to experience new science and culture, this is the music of a Spain connected with the most innovative musical currents of its time.
Joining Pinteño in his ensemble of virtuosity and flair in their NCEM debut are violinist Fumiko Morieand cellistEster Domingo.
The music of Spain and Spanish musicians have become a regular feature of the National Centre for Early Music’s main programme despite increasing logistical challenges.
In 2019 Spanish ensemble L’Apothéose scooped the York International Young Artists Prize; in 2022 the NCEM welcomed young vocal ensemble Cantoria to York for a week-long residency, and last November the NCEM co-promoted a UK tour with Diapason d’Or winners El Gran Teatro del Mundo.
The Spanish theme will continue at the NCEM with this year’s Young Composers Award, for which composers were invited to compose a piece of music based on a popular tune from the Spanish Golden Age of the 16th and 17th centuries. The short-listed compositions will be performed on May 12 in York by the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble.
NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “With concerts, tours, residencies and award winners, over the last few years the music of Spain and Spanish musicians have been very much centre stage here at the NCEM and we are thrilled to welcome two of Spain’s finest early music ensembles to York.
“This is the first time we’ve partnered with the Instituto Cervantes and we hope that this is just the beginning of an exciting partnership. We would also like to extend grateful thanks to the Spanish National Centre for the Promotion of Music (CNDM, Madrid), INAEM, Spanish Ministry of Sport and Culture and Nextgeneration.eu, providing funding from the EU.”
Pedro Jesus Eusebio Cuesta, director of the Instituto Cervantes, Manchester and Leeds, says: “Instituto Cervantes has always worked tirelessly to bring the very best of Spanish culture and heritage to the UK and across the world.
“From our ongoing Spanish language classes to our extensive series of live events, festivals and more, our hope is to reflect the passion of Spain. It’s even more rewarding when we are able to bring not one, but two superb music ensembles to such a prestigious venue as the National Centre for Early Music.
“Both concerts are sure to be unforgettable and a testament to all that we seek to achieve at Instituto Cervantes.”
Francisco Lorenzo, director of the Spanish National Centre for the Promotion of Music (CNDM, Madrid), says: “For the CNDM, the entity of the Ministry of Culture and Sports in charge of the promotion, diffusion and expansion of the Spanish musical heritage, these concerts in York featuring of some of our best groups who specialise in baroque music are key.
“They allow us to showcase the interpretative quality of some of our great Spanish performers in this prestigious venue. In addition, it’s a way of highlighting the value, quality and richness of the Spanish repertoire, which has a unique personality.”
Tickets for each concert cost £22, concessions £20, under 35s, £6, and NCEM patrons £18. Book for both concerts in the same transaction to save £5.
AFTER a quiet start to 2023 at the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, the spring concert season begins to bloom in full in early March.
Before then, the NCEM’s community singing group meets for a Cuppa And A Chorus session on February 20 at 2pm, with further sessions to follow on March 20, April 17, May 15, June 19 and July 24.
“After the Covid lockdowns, we’re opening up for more members to join this popular chance to connect through singing,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin.
I Can Play, the NCEM’s programme for sharing music-making opportunities with D/deaf children across York, continues this season at Milthorpe School, on February 25 and March 18, with support from the York children’s charity Lollipop.
“We started this programme several years ago, went online during Covid, and then moved to the York Music Centre, based at Millthorpe School, in September,” says Delma. “It’s lovely for the children to feel part of the broader activity there.”
The NCEM’s Family Friendly umbrella reopens for Leeds company Opera North’s Little Listeners performance of Mini Vixen on February 26 at 11.30am and 1.30pm.
Based on the music and story of Janacek’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen and led by a cast of professional opera singers and musicians, this musical adventure takes place in a mystical woodland where a Vixen meets a Fox. As their friendship grows, they discover how working together is vital to protect their home and the habitat around them.
Singing and movement is encouraged at this interactive, relaxed, fun concert, where Opera North invites you to “experience the magic of opera, storytelling and music, whatever your age”.
“For Opera North’s singers, Mini Vixen gives them an opportunity to work in very different circumstances and develop their professional skills,” says Delma.
What follows is an NCEM spring diary of “thought-provoking concerts, guaranteed to entertain, to intrigue and to make you smile,” says Delma.
First up will be multi-instrumentalists, composers and folk scholars The Rheingans Sisters on March 3. Nominated for Best Duo/Group at the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Peak District siblings Rowan and Anna play instruments made largely by their luthier father, Helmut Rheingans.
Further folk concerts will be performed by Leveret, the all-English trio of Sam Sweeney, fiddle, Andy Cutting, button accordion, and Rob Harbron, concertina, on March 15 and Firelight Trio, featuring Moishe’s Bagel accordion and piano player Phil Alexander, on March 29.
Leveret rely on mutual trust and musical interaction to create new settings of their repertoire in the moment, while Firelight Trio’s Alexander, Gavin Marwick (fiddle) and Ruth Morris (nyckelharpa) play European folk, from Swedish polkas to Scottish reels, French waltzes to klezmer, topped off with original tunes.
Make a note of two more folk gigs already booked for the autumn: Scottish fiddle quartet RANT (Bethany Reid, Anna Massie, Lauren MacColl and Gillian Frame) on September 21, and The Furrow Collective’s night of story-songs and seasonal carols, rearranged for December 5 (after last December’s visit had to be postponed).
Jazz bookings are led off by the piano-driven Andrew McCormack Trio’s Terra Firma concert with bassist Joe Downard and American drummer Rod Youngs on April 28.
The Oxley-Meier Guitar Project delivers jazz, heavy metal, Flamenco, Tango and Turkish-influenced music from Pete Oxley, Nicolas Meier, bassist Raph Mizraki and drummer Paul Cavaciuti on May 18.
The University of York Jazz Orchestra combines standards and new compositions, under the direction of the Roller Trio’s James Mainwaring on June 16. Soft Machine guitarist John Etheridge and special guest Kit Holmes promise blues, folk, jazz and African grooves on June 18 at 6.30pm as part of the York Festival of Ideas.
On the international front, Armenian duduk player Arsen Petrosyan leads his quartet in Hokin Janapar: My Soul’s Journey, his March 10 return to the NCEM to play traditional, early, classical and sacred music from his homeland after a Making Tracks concert there four years ago.
Django Reinhardt’s grand-nephew, the gypsy swing, North African and Indian-inspired guitarist Lulo Reinhardt, from Germany, pairs up with folk, jazz and bossa nova guitarist Yulija Lonskaya on May 9 in his NCEM debut.
The Instituto Cervantes, National Centre for the Promotion of Music and NCEM link up for Beyond The Spanish Golden Age, Music Of The Spanish Enlightenment, two 7pm concerts backed by Inaem, the Spanish Ministry of Sport and Culture, with funding from the European Union’s Nextgeneration.eu fund.
Spanish early music ensemble La Galania perform 17th century works of passion, jealousy, love, sweetness, reproach and death with soprano Raquel Andueza on May 13; violinist Daniel Pinteno’s Concerto 1700 focus on 18th century string trios by Castle, Boccherini and Brunetti on May 14 in their York debut.
Grammy Award-winning Rajasthan slide guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt plays the NCEM for the first time, accompanied by table player Pandit Subhen Chatterjee, in Devine Moments on May 22. York Festival of Ideas welcomes American countertenor Reginald Mobley and French jazz pianist Baptiste Trotignon for a night of songs written by black composers such as HT Burleigh, Florence Price and J Rosamond Johnson, together with a reflection on the origins of Negro spirituals and slave songs, on June 13.
From 6.30pm to 7pm, Dr Matthew Williams, who runs the University of York’s black music programme, gives an illustrated talk on how Negro spirituals, a hymn to resilience and a symbol of hope and faith in humanity, influenced ragtime, barbershop, jazz, gospel, blues, rock techno and electronic music. After the concert, he hosts a Q&A session with Mobley and Trotignon.
The snappily attired Budapest Café Orchestra switch between gypsy and folk-flavoured music in their unconventional set of Balkan and Russian pieces, Romantic masterpieces and Gaelic folk anthems on June 22.
Further highlights include Frame Ensemble musicians Irine Rosnes, violin, Liz Hanks, violin, Trevor Bartlett, percussion, and Jonny Best, piano, accompanying the April 18 screening of the BFI digital restoration of Frank Hurley’s 1919 film, South (U): Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Glorious Epic of the Antarctic.
Hurley photographed Shackleton’s 1914-1916 expedition to Antarctica aboard Endurance, during which the ship was crushed by ice, leaving the crew stranded. Unseen since it sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915, the wreck of Endurance was found at last in March 2022.
The University of York Baroque+ Day on May 7 features Consone Quartet with basset clarinet player Emily Worthington, performing works by Haydn, Stadler and Mozart at 12 noon.
Consone Quartet members and University of York students will be holding a free masterclass (booking required) at 2.30pm. The day ends with Lucy Russell and Rachel Gray directing the University Baroque Ensemble in Ah! Vienna – Vienna Before Mozart, featuring Biber, Schmelzer, Bertali and Fox pieces.
Improvising violinist Nina Kumin presents A Baroque Fantasy on May 14 at 10.30am, a free concert where she focuses on fantasy, from and freedom by letting the solo violin fantasias of Nicola Matteis take centre stage.
Presented in association with BBC Radio 3, the NCEM Young Composers Award 2023 Final will be held on May 12 at 7pm, when the selection of new pieces written for The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble will be played.
In the second Family Friendly concert of 2023 for children aged five upwards, parents and carers, the London-based Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment performs a newly crafted version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute by Hazel Gould, on April 1 at 10.30am.
In this fun-packed show, Kirsty is a bird and Tim is a bird catcher who needs to catch a new bird every day to take to the Queen. Kirsty wants to remain free, whereupon Tim is caught in a dilemma when the Queen sets them a series of challenges. Will music save the day?
During the York Festival of Ideas, the NCEM plays host to Claudio Kon Do Brasil, an introduction to the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, run by Brazilian-born musician, percussionist and workshop leader Claudio Kron, who moved to Britain 30 years ago and now lives in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.
“Guaranteed to keep you on your toes”, two sessions will be held on June 17: 10.30am to 12 noon for teenagers and adults; 2pm to 3.30pm for children aged seven upwards and their families.
All concerts at the NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, start at 7.30pm, unless stated otherwise. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.