Richard Savino brought his Spanish baroque ensemble, El Mundo, to Emma Willard’s Kiggins Hall on Saturday to open the 64th season of the Friends of Chamber Music. The concert was just as flavorful and educational as the group’s last appearance on the series in 2007.
Savino must scour the archives and libraries of Madrid or Barcelona to find these gems, many of them probably still in manuscript form.
All of them provided a sense of what people must have heard in the clubs, at court or on the streets from the 1600s to the 1700s in Spain, Italy, Mexico and surprisingly, Peru. The group included sopranos Jennifer Ellis-Kampani and Nell Snaidas, bass/guitar/castanets/tambourine player Paul Shipper, violinists Adam LaMotte and Lisa Grodin, cellist Beth Wenstrom, harpsichordist Avi Stein and Savino on theorbo and various guitars. All of them were exceptional embellishers of the tunes with strong techniques and sense of style, such as not using much vibrato.
The ensemble was tight and finished. Tunes were catchy, rhythms were strongly pulsed with a Spanish sense of dance time and the songs, which were strophic, ranged from sad introspection to fierce outrage and were very entertaining.
The group mixed it up with songs and instrumentals. They began with a Domenico Scarlatti “Symphonia Para Empezar” that had flashy violin passages and radical tempo shifts. Francesco Manelli’s “Acceso Mio Core” with both singers was lilting with pretty interweaving lines and went immediately into Domenico Mazzocchi’s “Sdegno Campion Audace” with Snaidas the fiery outraged lover, complete with wonderful coloratura and an indignant foot stamp at the end. The large crowd loved it.
Equally interesting was Handel’s cantata for voice (Ellis-Kampani), violin, cello and a guitar part that he actually wrote out; Juan de Aranes’ lament with Shipper’s showing off an especially resonant bass; an instrumental Fandango; a lilting but catchy “Ausente Del Alma” by Rafael Castellanos for the entire group and a final Christmas-y “Tarara qui Yo Soy Anton” by Antonio de Salazar. And that was only the first half.
The second half showed off LaMotte’s chops in the famed “La Folia,” a tune no one seems to know who wrote; Snaidas in another fabulous delivery of José Marin’s “Ojos Pues Me Desdenais”; an instrumental dance by Andrea Falconieri; Shipper as a tough street thug (with a black hat, glasses and dangling cigarette from his mouth) in Juan Hidalgo’s “Xacara de Clarin”; Ellis-Kampani in vibrant voice in Hidalgo’s “Ay que Si”; and Rafael Castellanos’ “Oygan una Xacarilla” with Snaidas; and then everyone in José Aparicio’s festival song.
Because there were no texts provided for the songs, Shipper gave some background, which helped a bit. It was the singers with their exceptional delivery that made the difference. Savino also talked a little about the theorbo and the baroque guitars used, which was interesting considering that this is what the musicians played back then.
Two encores were given, both very short: one a sequidilla or catchy dance and the other a Cuban tune with both singers.
The next concert in the series is Nov. 17 with the Cecilia String Quartet.