Disappointing Heider Dufay Recital from Hilliard

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United KingdomUnited Kingdom Edinburgh International Festival 2014 (10) – Heider, Dufay: The Hilliard Ensemble, Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, 14.8.2014 (SRT)

Heider:    Sechs Gesänge für den Frieden
Dufay:      Missa “L’homme armé”


After 40 years of music making, the Hilliard Ensemble are calling it a day, but I’m sorry that final Edinburgh concert went the way it did.

It’s not that the repertoire was poorly chosen: Heider’s Six Hymns for Peace were compelling and often exciting, and they reinforced the Hilliard’s pretty pristine credentials in contemporary music.  I liked the way Heider relied on deliberate estrangement in many of the songs – not inappropriate when you consider that many describe the horrors of war – and his use of whispered speech was genuinely eerie.

 The decision to intersperse the songs in between the movements of the mass was, in principle, a fine idea; but the singers seemed to have genuine problems of pitching when moving from one to the other and, while the juxtaposition may have brought out more of the strangeness of Dufay’s 15th century harmonies, too many of the lines jarred and clashed with one another, giving the impression that the four men couldn’t quite read how each other was singing; a very rare lapse for a group of this distinction.

 The pitch was a particular problem at the end of the mass movements when the final chord seemed to waver for a second or two before finally resolving onto its correct pitch.  In short, a disappointment, and my only consolation is that it isn’t representative of the group’s overall achievement.

 The Edinburgh International Festival runs until Sunday 31st August in venues across the city.  For full details click here.

Simon Thompson

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