CONCERT: IL SIGLO D’ORO – WIGMORE HALL
by Andrew Clements (The Guardian - 12 July 2010)
Though I don’t imagine many of the Wigmore Hall’s early music audience spend too much time on the terraces, at least some of them seemed to grasp conductor Andrew Carwood’s introductory references to Paul the psychic octopus. By happy chance, less than 24 hours after Spain’s World Cup victory, this concert was devoted to the music of that country’s other, cultural golden age, half a millennium ago.
Carwood’s programme concentrated on music composed in honour of the Virgin Mary. The three best-known Spanish composers of the 16th century, Morales, Victoria and Guerrero, were all generously represented, but there were also settings by less familiar figures such as Vivanco, Esquivel and Lobo. It’s sheer delight to be immersed in such entrancingly beautiful music, with Victoria’s darker hued, more expressively intense vocal writing contrasting with the more open, less highly wrought textures of Guerrero and Esquivel, and the sparer directness of Morales.
The Cardinall’s Musick perform this music with consummate clarity, and not a trace of affectation or unnecessary embellishment. With just one singer to each of the four, five, six or eight parts, it was all perfectly scaled to the Wigmore Hall. One might have expected music composed for a church acoustic to seem undernourished in a concert setting, but there was never any suggestion of dryness; rather, the vivid immediacy of the sound only highlighted the group’s distinctive qualities, in which the characteristics of each singer are never homogenised into undifferentiated choral textures. Just occasionally one might have liked the enunciation to be a little more precise, but that’s nit-picking really; it was a beautifully conceived programme, beautifully presented.