Viola Da Gamba A Good Gamble With Jordi Savall

March 8, 2010

Edmonton Chamber Music Society

Jordi Savall, viola da gamba

Convocation Hall

Music by Abel, Bach, Schenck, Sainte-Colombe, de Machy, Marais, Hume, Ferrabsoco II, Ford and Playford

I’ve learned to keep a close eye on the Edmonton Chamber Music Society’s concerts; they bring some unexpected treasures to town.  Edmontonians had a rare treat on Monday evening when the ECMS presented Jordi Savall on the viola da gamba in a special out-of-series concert.

The viola da gamba could be described as the socially awkward uncle of our modern cello.  You know the guy I’m talking about: he sits in the corner by himself at family reunions and no one really knows what to say to him, but when you work up the courage to wander over and start a conversation, it turns out that he’s the most interesting member of your extended family.  Jordi Savall started that conversation over forty years ago, and he is recognized internationally today as a master of the viol and music written for it.

One of the reasons we don’t hear the viola da gamba and other instruments of its era very much these days is that they are a fair bit quieter than modern instruments, so they can’t easily share the stage with their sleeker, newer relatives.  With the lights turned down in Convocation Hall and the stage lit by a single floor lamp, the setting was perfect for an evening of subtle music.  Despite the fact that the auditorium was sold out, you could’ve heard a pin drop.  The audience was clearly pulled in by Mr. Savall’s thoughtful playing.

The program presented us with a wide selection of music from Baroque Italy and France.  Different characters emerged and the music was in turns carefree, wistful, seductive and stealthy.  I could’ve sworn I heard gypsies at one point, and the final set of the evening transported us to the Scottish Isles.  Using a “bag-pipes tuning” which allows the musician to create a drone underneath the melody, the viol sang and reeled and set a few toes tapping.  With a blustery March breeze making its way through the windows of Convocation Hall, it wasn’t hard to imagine oneself on a windswept moor.

The second item on the program was an Allemande from one of J.S. Bach’s cello suites.  Hearing it played on the viola da gamba was a little like listening to a cover of your favourite song and realizing you like it ten times better than the original; the subtlety and expression possible on this instrument opens a different realm of possibilities.  Mr. Savall left us all wanting more, and he didn’t disappoint with two encores.

There’s still one concert left in this season’s offerings from the Chamber Music Society: the Imani Winds, a quintet from the New York area, will be giving a concert at 2pm on Sunday, March 14.  The Edmonton Chamber Music Society will also be using this occasion to announce its 2010-2011 concert season.  Stay tuned!



more in Music Feature     |     posted Mar 9th, 2010 at 10:46am     

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