The Un­known Trav­eller

BBC Music Magazine - - Choral & Song Reviews -

Works by Byrd, Faig­nient, Ferra­bosco, Fer­retti, Laasso, Palest­rina, Rowarth, et al

Fieri Con­sort Fieri Records FIER002TUT 71:46 mins The de­but disc of the young Fieri Con­sort, last April’s Cho­ral and Song Choice, com­bined Ital­ian madri­gals with a new work by Ben Rowarth. This fol­low-up sticks to the same for­mula: but the madri­gals, by Ital­ian and Flem­ish com­posers, are sung in trans­la­tions from Ni­cholas Yonge’s 1588 an­thol­ogy Mu­sica Transalpina, de­signed to in­tro­duce the genre to English singers. The per­for­mances are pre­cise in at­tack and pitch­ing, and sen­si­tively bal­anced; the over­all sound is lovely, ex­cept that the sweet­ness of the high so­prano line soon be­comes cloy­ing. Dic­tion is not bad, but in a church acous­tic not quite clear enough to com­pen­sate for the lack of printed texts. Given that the essence of the madri­gal is its re­sponse to the mean­ing of the words, this re­duces the lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to a sim­ple en­joy­ment of their sonic beauty.

Ben Rowarth’s eight-voice Short Walk of a Mad­man builds on the ideas of jour­ney­ing and trans­la­tion with its pro­gres­sion from con­fu­sion to una­nim­ity, mad­ness to clar­ity. I con­fess I can’t fol­low the com­poser’s ex­pla­na­tion of how this is re­lated to the refugee ex­pe­ri­ence, or to a spi­ral struc­ture de­rived from Dante’s Di­vine Com­edy, or to the four no­tably ob­scure po­ems by e.e. cum­mings which are set with in­creas­ing au­di­bil­ity in the four move­ments. But the work’s ex­treme dif­fi­cul­ties are ne­go­ti­ated by the Con­sort with supreme con­fi­dence; and in the light of Rowarth’s in­sis­tence on its es­sen­tially ab­stract na­ture, per­haps it’s best ap­proached as an­other sonic ex­pe­ri­ence. An­thony Bur­ton



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