Sunday, January 29, 2012

Concert: Fabio Biondi & Europa Galante (01/27/2012)


First Congregational Church, Berkeley

 01/27/2012

New Faces & Old

Antonio Brioschi (c. 1725–1750): Sinfonia in D major
Vivaldi: Concerto for Three Violins in G major Op.3 No.3 (RV 310)
Angelo Maria Scaccia (c. 1690–1761) Violin Concerto in E-flat major
Haydn: Double Concerto for Violin and Harpsichord in F major (Hob. 18:6)

J.S. Bach: Concerto for two violins in D minor (BWV 1043)
Handel: Suite from Rodrigo (1704)

說到當今最有性格的古樂團,不可能不想到Biondi帶領的Europa Galante。他們善長義大利巴洛克曲目,尤其是韋瓦第的音樂,使之完全脫胎換骨,煥然一新。之前介紹過他們韋瓦第作品八(有「四季」協奏曲)的專輯,精彩至極。這次他們來到灣區表演,當然是不能錯過的!

音樂會的曲目設計很有意思,new faces & old,表示熟悉與冷門的音樂各摻半。有些是熟悉的作曲家和熟悉的音樂(韋瓦第,巴哈),熟悉的作曲家和冷門的音樂(海頓,韓德爾),然後最後是冷門的作曲家。對於我,Brioschi和Scaccia是之前完全沒聽過的作曲家,更別說音樂了再來,因為平常對於聲樂及改編的組合比較沒研究,韓德爾那首組曲也是第一次聽。所以,二者都算是大開眼(耳)界。

上半場除了海頓,都是義大利的音樂。Europa Galante就他們一貫的風格,速度輕快,生氣勃勃。不同於Concerto Koeln或是Akadmie fuer Alte Musik Berlin這些德國樂團,Europa Galante更添加了一些戲劇性,特別是強弱上以及節奏突然的放慢。Europa Galante的編制大小恰到好處,而他們的樂器音量充足,我坐在二樓,還是聽得相當清楚。不過,他們那麼強而有力,也導至有時會有音準的問題,而且巴洛克樂器本身就較容易走音,使得樂團得常常調音,有時甚至是在樂章與樂章間。當然,這是精彩的演奏下必須接受的小小犧牲,我聽起來可是甘之如飴。

倒底Fabio Biondi還是Europa Galante的精神領袖,整場音樂會,他散發強而有力的個人風格,使得目光很自然地集中在他身上。韋瓦第的那首協奏曲,雖然是三小提琴,但實質上戲份都放在第一把小提琴上。Scaccia的那首小提琴協奏曲,則界於巴洛克與早期古典之間,有韋瓦第和Tartini的味道。

我整場最喜歡的,卻是海頓的那首給小提琴與大鍵琴的協奏曲。手邊有這一首的錄音,不過Biondi和Europa Galante的註釋,可是為音樂注入了新能量。鍵盤手Paola Poncet這時充份展現她的技巧,全曲應付得輕鬆自在。Poncet的彈法鏗鏘有力,不過風格相當直接,或許是反應古典時期的音樂。後來知道Poncet的老師師承荷蘭派,她自己也曾和Ton Koopman繼續深造,因此對於她的表現,現在想來完全不意外。最美的第二樂章,theorbo手有幾段伴奏相當鮮明,給人一種截然不同的氣氛,如一首舒服的小夜曲。

下半場的巴哈雙小提琴協奏曲,雖人聽古典樂的無人不曉,但Europa Galante演奏下,又是另一種面貌。習慣巴哈音樂應該要嚴肅的人,可能會不能接受Europa Galante較為「輕浮」的處理,特別是第一與第三快樂章。他們急勁的風格,使得雙小提琴聲部的不再沉重,對位甚至顯得輕快。至於優美的慢樂章,Europa Galante在某個樂句忽然大聲了起來,處理獨到,不得不讓我稱奇。誰說老狗變不出新把戲?

最後的韓德爾的組曲,Europa Galante照樣表現亮眼。在慢的舞曲中,樂團減化至首席,營造更私密的氣氛,而快的舞曲,則全部樂手一齊演奏來壯大聲勢。很襯職的,組曲最後以Passacaglia收尾,而Europa Galante的速度,意外得穩健,沒有直接衝刺開來。

在觀眾不停的掌聲下,Biondi和Europa Galante為大家帶來的安可曲為他們善長的韋瓦第的絃樂協奏曲。這時,他們又回到大家熟悉的奔放風格,整個音樂會轟轟烈烈地落幕。

做為古樂的追星族,當是在門外等候Biondi先生出來。就如同大部份的古樂音樂家,Biondi先生人相當親切,簽CD與合影當然是沒有拒絕。多了戰利品,開心而歸。

 
Fabio Biondi


Europa Galante (EG) might arguably be one of the most exciting period ensembles today, and so I'd definitely not miss the chance to see them play live.  Their concert title "New faces & old" is extremely fitting, as it features known and unknown music by known and unknown composers, Brioschi and Scaccia even new to me.  Their music has not been recorded on CD before, and it was a treat to hear EG play them live, even if the music isn't exactly that inspiring. 

Right from the start in Brioschi's piece, EG's style is evident and unmistakable.  It has power and briskness, but compared to the German ensembles that offer sheer masculine playing and single affekts for each piece, EG's playing has an extra flair, employing dramatic dynamics and also drastic tempo changes.  It's this element of surprise that makes their music-making.  Well-known Vivaldi's and Bach's concertos are cast under new light.  As a play on their program's words,  it's "old" music with a "new face."   

What also struck me was how well their sound projected.  I sat on the second balcony floor again, but unlike the Akademie fuer Alte Musik Berlin concert, EG's sound was rich and full.  This could also be due to the fact that I sat in the 2nd row of the Balcony, while for Akamus I was way out back.  Either way, the listening experience greatly benefited from just that.  

Biondi really is EG's heart and soul, and his strong personal style easily shines out of the ensemble.  He takes on the solo violin roles in all the pieces, pairing up with Andrea Rognoni in Bach's double violin concerto and harpsichordist Paola Poncet in Haydn's concerto.  Vivaldi's concerto, even though titled "for 3 violins," is in reality dominated by the first violin.  As expected with Biondi's big cuts, you'd hear minor scratchiness in his playing, a tradeoff I'd gladly pay for their excitement.  In fact, such bold playing required the members of EG to retune their strings often, sometimes even between movements. 

Scaccia's concerto was a small delight, as its style lies between the late-Baroque early-Classical era.  It has moments reminiscent of Vivaldi and Tartini's violin concertos.  However, my favorite performance, surprisingly, was Haydn's concerto.  I own a recording played Koopman and Huggett that I acquired when I was still in high school, which is overall well-done.  However, EG's performance is on a whole another level, in terms of engaging the music.   First, the harpsichordist Paolo Poncet gets her "15 minutes of fame," so to speak, as she demonstrates her solo-playing chops.  None of what Haydn threw seemed to bother her, like another day in the office. Her virtuosic playing was characterized by a type of directness, acceptable to me because it's under the classical context of Haydn.  Otherwise, I'd expect some more variety.  In the second movement, the lutist manages to put his stamp in the continuo improvisation, creating a beautiful serenade-like mood that is simply ethereal.  In recent years, I've been slow to give praise to music of the Classical era genre, but written by the right composer and played by the right ensemble, there are still its good moments. 

Bach's double violin concerto.  Those who think Bach's music is more methodical will surely be put off by EG's lighter approach to the music.  Their playing smooths out the seriousness in the music, as Biondi and Rognoni seem to casually stroll and weave through the notes, especially in the outer movements.  What caught my ear, again, was the 2nd movement, where EG had a few tricks up their sleeve, surprising the audience with some unconventional dynamics, shattering the conventional one-dimensional calm and pastorale mood.

Lastly, Handel's suite from Rodrigo.  Not being a vocal music specialist, the orchestral suite was also foreign to me.  EG's treatment is sound, as you expect.  They really keep the music and energy going, but they also create variety by shrinking it down to one-player-per-part for the slower, more intimate dances like the Sarabande and Menuet, while returning to full-force on the the fast dances.  And to close the regular program, what better than the final Passacaglia of the suite? Interestingly, Biondi shows restraint and goes for the steadiness.   
 
Lastly, the audience is treated to an encore, a Vivaldi string concerto movement.  Back to their high-octane playing and a true finish to a night of wonderful music-making.

Afterwards, Mr. Biondi was nice to autograph the few CDs I have of him.  One of his earlier recordings, Vivaldi's Manchester sonatas, was something he vividly remembers. 

2 comments:

Ergaster said...

羨慕啊~! :)

Deadlockcp said...

stay tuned for more.....

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