Review: 2019 Four Winds Easter Festival – House Concert 1

David Barmby

The greatest beauty can come from the smallest things.
Review: 2019 Four Winds Easter Festival – House Concert 1

House Concert 1. Photo credit: Lisa Herbert.

Wapengo (population 69) on the beautiful Sapphire Coast of NSW is situated in a lush green and fertile pastoral landscape where herds of black Angus cattle and shaggy Dorper sheep graze round brimming dams. High on one hill is an imposing stone farm house sporting traditional bull-nose verandas, the chosen venue for the first performance in this year’s Four Winds Easter Festival. The core of this house is its main room faced with limestone, with a high vaulted ceiling and a large stone fireplace. Here, 25 fortunate patrons experienced a thrilling Festival opening in a recital by celebrated early music soprano Dame Emma Kirkby, distinguished Swedish lutenist Jakob Lindberg and Scottish classical accordionist James Crabb, Artistic Director of the Festival. I doubt that anyone present will forget the experience.

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Earlier this year, Dame Emma celebrated her 70th birthday with a recital at Wigmore Hall in London. She has been at the very heart of the early music revival throughout the world since the 1970s, as both performer and renowned teacher. Happily a regular visitor to Australia, appearing several times for Musica Viva, this is her second visit to the Four Winds Festival. To experience a performance in such an intimate context was a rare privilege.

From the outset we heard a voice in fine condition, if slightly darker than we might remember it. Careful tuning, fluid phrasing, agility in ornamentation and characteristic warmth of tone are all clearly evident. She had an accompanist worthy of her. Jakob Lindberg is a superb lutenist: intelligent, sensitive, subtle, deeply musical and virtuosic in every aspect of performance. He played an exquisite instrument by Michael Lowe, Oxford (1981) a 13-course theorbo-lute with rosewood back modelled on an early 17th-century French Baroque instrument by Jacques Gaultier.

The program was announced by the artists as the recital progressed and included music by John Dowland, Venetian composer Barbara Strozzi, Mozart, Haydn, Vivaldi and Johann Pachelbel, including a moving performance of his Chaconne in F minor for organ arranged and played by James Crabb. There were many highlights in this eclectic program generally devoted to the joys and sorrows of love. While Dame Emma was mainly accompanied by Jakob Lindberg, James Crabb occasionally provided elegant and subtle accompaniments on classical accordion. Both instrumentalists combined for an entertaining transcription of a Concerto for lute, violin and cello by Vivaldi, the work surprisingly effective in this peculiar arrangement, particularly in the slow Largo movement.

A Scottish solo lute composition from 1600, the manuscript discovered in an Edinburgh library by Jakob Lindberg, was a further highlight that crowned the recital. Without a title or any indication of who composed it, here was a work that spoke of an untamed landscape and bracing air. It was a work that proved that the greatest beauty can come from the smallest things.

4 ½ stars: ★★★★☆

2019 Four Winds Easter Festival – House Concert 1
Wapengo House
Thursday, 18 April, 2019
11am

About the author

David Barmby is former head of artistic planning of Musica Viva Australia, director of music at St James' Anglican Church, King Street, artistic administrator of Bach 2000 (Melbourne Festival), the Australian National Academy of Music and Melbourne Recital Centre.