Utrecht Early Music Festival 2016 part 24: Duo Serenissima

While browsing the sheet music on offer at a stall of the Early Music market, I noticed the duo again. One was talking to an acquaintance, while the other one was chatting to the stall’s owner. The acquaintance asked after studies and made a remark about the “impressive voice”.

20160828 Venetian Portraits 003I raised an eyebrow, for when the fabulous fringe concert of Duo Serenissima started, I sincerely thought I had made a big mistake. This was supposed to be a fabulous fringe concert at the large concert hall of Tivoli Vredenburg? The first four pieces of the concert were not good at all! Especially the first song by Barbara Strozzi.

Impressive voice? Four songs into this concert, it certainly did not sound like one – on the contrary. The voices of other sopranos were far, far more mind-bowling. Especially Antonia Harper from Ignotae Deae – who had sung works by Barbara Strozzi  at a previous fringe concert – and Harma Everts from ensemble Aerodynamic at an other fringe concert, at Utrecht’s Pieterskerk.

Perhaps it was the scale and size of this large concert hall? For the other partner of this duo, Mr Mackor also had a problem. Voice and lute could hardly be heard. Was this caused by having to get acquainted with this venue? Was this caused by the stage alterations? For the stage had changed sides and the audience had been ordered to fill different rows. Or was it the sound system playing up? Or rather:  down.

Things improved slightly after the first four songs and instrumental pieces. That is to say: till someone’s mobile phone started ringing. The duo took a break and another swig from water bottles and mentioned “unplanned pause”, which had their audience giggling.

When David Mackor changed from lute to using a baroque guitar replica, the instrument could be heard loud and clearly. It was certainly better suited to accompany temperamental songs. For Ms Hetherington could now be heard better as well. Had she spared her voice at the start of this concert? If so: bad idea.

On the other hand, when after a series of songs, the guitar was changed for the lute again, there was a marked difference in sound too. However, the lute could be heard now. The instrument still sounded rather muted and introspective, compared to the guitar. This far into the concert, Ms Hetherington’s voice also started to ring and fill the hall.

20160903 NieuweGracht near Polman House

One of Utrecht’s many canals

At least, this certainly was not a concert à la Windsor consort. The Duo Serenissima acted out and tried to convey emotions, discussions, arguments as described in the Italian songs from their repertoire. Their concluding song by Claudio Monteverdi, Quel sguerdo, nearly obliterated the difficult start of this concert: no problems with instrument and voice.

Though the public took a while to grant the Duo Serenissima a standing ovation, the applause did ensure the duo returned on stage. As an extra, they performed a last song. This in turn, caused an outbreak of whistles – of approval – and more applause and shouting – also of approval. It seemed not only the arrangement of the stage had changed sides. The rowdy upper left part of the audience had found seats in different rows too.

Duo Serenissima:
Elisabeth Hetherington soprano
David Mackor tenor, lute, baroque guitar

Duo Serenissima performed:
Barbara Strozzi: Amor dormiglione
Alessandro Grandi O quam tu pulchra es
Bernardo Gianoncelli Tastegiata
Barbara Strozzi Begl’occhi bel seno
Bernardo Gianoncelli Tastegiata
Tarquinio Merula Quandío volsi
Domenico Obizzi Hor che vicin mi sento
Alessandro Grandi Sprezzami
Giovanni Paolo Foscarini Ciacona
Biagio Marini O Luci belle
Domenico Obizzi O sospiro
Bernardo Gianoncelli Tastegiata
Giovanni Stefani Amante felice
Giovanni Antonio Rigatti Ave Regina caelorum
Bernardo Gianoncelli Tastegiata
Giovanni Antonio Rigatti Valli nemiche al sol
Bernardo Gianoncelli Tastegiate
Claudio Monteverdi Quel sguerdo

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