musica Dei donum

Concert reviews

"Le strade del cuore"
Marco Beasley, voice; Stefano Rocco, archlute, guitar; Fabio Accurso, lute
concert: Oct 18, 2016, Utrecht, TivoliVredenburg (Hertz)

anon: Compendium Tarantulae; La bella noeva; Pavana La Cornetta - Gagliarda La Traditora; Serenata (Sona a battenti); Sona Carmagnola; Tarantella del Gargano; Tarantella del Passariello; Tu bella ca lu tieni lu pettu tundu; Marco BEASLEY (*1957): Tu dormi; Pietro Paolo BORRONO (c1490-after 1563): Pavana e saltarello della Milanese; Marchetto CARA (1470-1525): Io non compro pi speranza; Per fuggir d'amor le punte; Gabriele FALLAMERO (16th C): Vorria madonna; Jacopo FOGLIANO (1468-1548): L'amor, donna, ch'io te porto; Paolo SCOTO (16th C): Capra mozza sonemus et cantemus; Bartolomeo TROMBONCINO (1470-1535): Ostinato v seguire; Su, su, leva, alza le ciglia; Vale diva, vale in pace; Adrian WILLAERT (1490-1562): O bene mio, famme uno favore

Concerts with early music are usually well attended in the Netherlands. But it doesn't happen very often that an event is sold out, except in the Festival Early Music in Utrecht. When Marco Beasley made his appearance the chamber music hall of TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht there were hardly any empty seats. I don't know about other countries but certainly over here he has a large fan base. That is easy to understand; in many ways he is different from most performers in the early music scene.

Beasley is a charismatic singer who has a good rapport with his audience. He likes to introduce the pieces he is going to sing and he communicates with the audience in such a way that everyone of them may get the feeling that he is singing just for him or her. The repertoire he prefers to sing fits well into the intimate atmosphere he is able to create. Although he sings 'art music' by famous composers like Monteverdi his strenght is the more light-hearted repertoire of the renaissance. That was also the core of his programme in this concert. Most pieces fall into the category of the frottola which is the overall term used for various forms of secular vocal music which would lead to the madrigal in the second half of the 16th century.

The title of the programme was 'Le strade del cuore' - the ways of the heart. This indicates that most pieces were about love. Some were serious, others more light-hearted or ironic, some cheerful or frivolous, others bitter or sad. In general the character of frottolas is rather light-hearted; they don't have the depth of the later madrigal. That doesn't mean that they are superficial. One of the most beautiful pieces in the programme, Su, su, leva, alza le ciglia by Bartolomeo Tromboncino, was in fact quite moving.

Tromboncino was one of the most prominent composers of frottolas, alongside Marchetto Cara; both were represented in the programme. Although frottolas are not that often performed and recorded, some of Tromboncino's contributions to this genre are quite well-known, for instance Ostinato v seguire. Jacopo Fogliano may be a little-known name but his L'amor, donna, ch'io te porto is another pretty well-known piece. Both were already performed in the early days of the revival of early music and the older people in the audience may have recognized them. There were also some other little-known names in the programme: Gabriele Fallamero and Paolo Scoto.

Because of their often light-hearted character frottolas are pretty close to really 'popular' music of the 16th century. Most 'popular' songs are anonymous; they may not even have been really 'composed' and often they have no fixed form and have evolved with time. Beasley likes to connect the lighter forms of 'art music' to that kind of repertoire. In this concert he also included a number of anonymous songs which are still sung and link up with a tradition of ages. They were from southern Italy, such as Tarantella del Gargano, a traditional song from Puglia.

Performing 'popular' music is quite dangerous for professional singers. Either they sing in their usual way which is against the nature of the music or they try to adopt a style of singing which is common in folk music and are in danger of making a fool of themselves. Anyone who has heard opera singers perform popular Christmas carols know what I mean. Nothing of the sort happens when Marco Beasley takes on this kind of repertoire. That brings me to another aspect which makes him stand out in the early music scene. His singing is perfectly suited to popular songs and is also the reason that there are hardly any singers who can perform frottolas in such a convincing manner. His voice is relatively light and he mostly sings sotto voce; expression comes from the way he deals with text and tempo, the colouring of the voice and the way he presents the music with gestures and his movement on the stage. He is not only a singer but also an actor. If he raises his voice it is inspired by the text and has a strong impact. That was the case, for instance, with Sona Carmagnola, a Neapolitan political song of 1799 which was given a theatrical performance. The two lutenists joined him in the chorus and it brought the concert to a rousing close. No wonder the audience reacted with applause and cheers which resulted into two encores.

I should not forget to mention the two players of plucked instruments: Stefano Rocco on archlute and guitar and Fabio Accurso on the lute. They were not only sensible accompanists but also played some beautiful instrumental pieces, sometimes in the same theatrical manner as Beasley sang his songs.

It was a most memorable concert and the many admirers of Beasley will have returned home happy and satisfied.

Johan van Veen ( 2016)

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