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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

A sparkling afternoon at ‘Hengrove Hall’

Polifemy… Their voices are beautifully matched, their harmonies precise and lovely.

Music / John Wilbye’s House Concert, Polifemy with Ariana Odermatt. At the Wesley Music Centre, Forrest, June 1. Reviewed by SARAH BYRNE.

The charming conceit behind this sparkling concert was that of a 16th century English soiree, where madrigals are played for the entertainment of the guests – in this case invited by the family Kitson, of Hengrove Hall, to enjoy the work of their musician-in-residence, John Wilbye.

The cleverly-named Polifemy, established in 2008, is a septet of women musicians under the stewardship of the multi-talented Robyn Mellor. Their voices are beautifully matched, their harmonies precise and lovely. Even more impressive is that several are also fine instrumentalists, and the ensemble switches roles and places smoothly from piece to piece as best suits each.

Joining them on harpsichord was locally-based international expert Ariana Odermatt. In the small, well-chosen venue of the Wesley Music Centre, the audience had a visual reminder of the expertise needed to overcome the limits of the harpsichord – a cramped keyboard half the size of a piano’s, no sostenuto, little capacity to vary dynamics. Odermatt’s talent transcends these obstacles, performing on the Taskin-style double-manual harpsichord.

Other instrumental pieces were played by Mellor on recorders of different pitches, accompanied by two violas da gamba, played by Rachel Walker and Caroline Downer.

These pieces, by Martin Peerson, Elway Bevan and Giovanni Coperario (better known to his owd Mam as John Cowper), were perfectly deployed to punctuate  four themed brackets of Wilbye’s pretty madrigals, looping and fugal.

The final and fourth bracket was made up of Wilbye’s own madrigals. This was a little jewel of a concert and a lovely way to spend an hour on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

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