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Inaugural Brathay Festival of Music is musical success
Brathay Festival of Music, Voces8
All hail to the Brathay Festival of Music! With its resonant acoustic the village’s exquisite, tranquil Holy Trinity Church is the ideal setting for this imaginatively programmed and carefully administered fledgling summer event.
The capacity audience for its second concert was wowed by the breathtaking musicianship and technical versatility of the young, internationally-famed Voces8. In their ‘celebration of the diversity of music,’ the octet presented a programme of works spanning the reigns of both Queen Elizabeths and demonstrated why it is at the forefront of world a cappella.
The differing idioms of Renaissance polyphony (Gibbons, Byrd, Palestrina et al, Baroque (Bach), Classical/Romantic (Brahms) and the 20th Century (Holst, Tavener) were as second nature to them. So, too, were those of their starkly-contrasting and highly-entertaining 20th traditional, jazz and pop arrangements (Gershwin, Presley, James Bond etc).
There was always stylistic authenticity, immaculate ensemble work with perfection in the realms of diction, intonation, tonal blend, phrase shaping and dynamic range. Body language was of constant interest as was the ever-increasing extent of humour and choreography.
I almost forgot! - the programme was sung entirely from memory - a prodigious feat.
Brathay Festival of Music, Xuefei Yang
The lunchtime solo recital given by this UK-based, Beijing-born, supreme advocate for the guitar, was a delight on many levels.
Each item was performed with apparently effortless technique and lucidity of interpretation that held the audience in rapt attention, aided by Xuefei's range and subtlety of dynamics, tone quality, sense of timing and balancing of lines within the musical texture.
In the Violin Sonata No 2 in A minor by J.S.Bach there was a continuos flow of interpretive detail that emerged naturally from her obvious knowledge and understanding of the music.
After the almost meditative focus in the Bach, Xuefei drew out the charm, good humour and occasional seriousness of Suite Populaire Bresilienne by Villa-Lobos, effectively characterising its various dances from Europe and from Brazil.
The Usher Waltz by Koshkin has become popular partly because of its colourful treatment of a self-destructive waltz theme, reminiscent of Ravel's La Valse. In this piece Xuefei extended her expressive range still more, with violent chords, Bartokian twanging of the strings and ghostly harmonics.
Paganini's famous 24th Violin Caprice was the virtuosic climax, made still more impressive by the apparent ease with which she sailed through the pyrotechnics.