Sinfonia Cymru Re-imagine the Italian Renaissance

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Rota, Terranova, Respighi, Sciarrino: Sinfonia Cymru String Quartet, Swedish Wind Ensemble, Camerata Nolrdica, Amy Corkery (soprano), Angela Giovio (mezzo-soprano), Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff , 5.10.2014 (LJ).

Nino Rota: Small Musical Offering for Wind Quintet
                       Nonet for Wind Quintet and String Quartet
Daniela Terranova, Asleep Landscape
Ottorino Respighi, Il Tramonto for Mezzo and String Quartet
Salvatore Sciarrino, Due arie notturne del campo, arr. Of Two Arias by A. Scarlatti
Ottorino Respighi, Antique Airs and Dances


In a concert entitled ‘Italian Moods Through Time’ the compositions selected produced a unifying programme through their distinctly modern yet sensitively nostalgic reflections on Italian courtly life in the Renaissance. Wales’ Sinfonia Cymru worked with Sweden’s Camerata Nordica and Wind Ensemble, serenading the audience at the RWCMD’s Dora Stouzker Hall.

Opening with Nino Rota’s Small Musical Offering for Wind Quintet, the Swedish Wind Ensemble performed the lively spring-like passages with precision and delicacy befitting of the pastoral scene the piece evokes (despite being composed in the war-torn July of 1943). Speaking of the Italian composer best known for writing the music to The Godfather films, Federico Fellini commented:

He was someone who had a rare quality belonging to the world of intuition. Just like children, simple men, sensitive people, innocent people, he would suddenly say dazzling things. As soon as he arrived, stress disappeared, everything turned into a festive atmosphere; the movie entered a joyful, serene, fantastic period, a new life.

This spontaneity and charisma was translated seamlessly into Rota’s Nonet by the Swedish Wind Ensemble and Sinfonia Cymru String Quartet. A textured piece of diversity and breadth required a musical conversation between string and wind sections which ranged from the humorous to the contemplative in atmosphere. Working well together, both musical groups demonstrated flare, virtuosity and concentrated consideration of the overall mood and shape of Rota’s composition. Led by the charismatic violinist Bartosz Woroch and with the considerable skill and attentiveness of cellist Steffan Morris, the Sinfonia Cymru, alongside the accomplished Swedish Wind Ensemble picked out the mysterious yet jaunty feel of Rota’s Nonet which alludes to Shostakovich and Gershwin in its third section.

Undoubtedly the highlight of this concert was the UK premiere of Italian composer Daniela Terranova’s Asleep Landscape with soprano Amy Corkery, saxophonist Virgo Veldi and the Camerata Nordica. With glassy harmonics creating a shrill, unnerving opening this wraithlike mood was sustained to create an almost surreal dreamscape. Conducted with swanlike movements by Terje Tonnessen, the Camerata Nordica sounded serene, evoking the misty spirit of the piece. Founded in 1974, the musicians of Sweden’s Camerata Nordica are talented individuals and work with praiseworthy intensity and commitment, illuminating each piece with perspicuity and originality. Corkery’s singing possessed an ethereal quality as her words melted into thin air when she sung Prospero’s lines from Act IV Scene I of Shakespeare’s The Tempest:

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

This was a remarkably controlled performance where all musicians transfixed the audience, making good use of the silences within the music to create suspense and give it an air of theatricality.

After a brief interval the glamorous and alluring mezzo-soprano Angela Giovio joined the Sinfonia Cymru String Quartet to perform Ottorino Respighi’s Il Tramonto, a setting of Shelley’s poem The Sunset which charts a woman’s feelings as she recalls her dead lover, the passion she felt and the loss she carries with her:

That night the youth and lady mingled lay
In love and sleep – but when the morning came
The lady found her lover dead and cold

Singing such lines of desolation and despair, Giovio was sorrowful and evocative in this considerably heartfelt and intelligent performance.

Contemporary Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino’s Due arie notturne del campo, an arrangement of two arias by Alessandro Scarlatti, picked out the Baroque roots and lamenting soulfulness of Scarlatti’s first aria and quoted the sprightly effervescence of the second. Joining the Sinfonia Cymru String Quartet, Amy Corkery was convincingly willowing in the first aria, but her voice seemed slightly laden in the second aria which needed to be delivered with greater ease and felicity.

Respighi’s interest in the Italian baroque could be felt most distinctly in the Camerata Nordica’s performance of his Antique Airs and Dances. A revival of early lute music of the 16th and 17th centuries, music seemed to seep through the walls and blossom into echoes of Vivaldi’s Summer from his Four Seasons in the frenzied runs which erupted from the more sparse sections. Consisting of three suites, composed over fifteen years (1917-32), each section reflects a different Renaissance lutenist, tied together to evoke a majestic courtly-dance. Replete with a beautiful viola solo (performed by Catherine Bullock) as a recurring theme, all musicians played with untrammelled feeling and lyricism. In particular Barbro Lennstam’s performance on the double bass was unwavering in its vitality and grace.

Certainly a concert to remember, all of the musicians in this ‘Small Nations Big Sounds’ production for Sinfonia Cymru were of a high standard and worked extremely well together. A well put together programme gave the audience ample opportunity to experience more modern Italian music and reflect on the early musical traditions of such a musically rich country.

Lucy Jeffery


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