Music: 1612 Italian Vespers \ I Fagiolini
I Fagiolini’s 1612 Italian Vespers may well turn out to be another highlight of my cultural year (the first was Sally Beamish’s Spinal Chords with the OAE).
It’s a notable recording, not least because intensive scholarly work has led to a piece of musical production which yields further scholastic attention. Or, if such pleasures have long since disappeared from your long-term memory, then the sound of conductor Robert Hollingworth, his musicians and singers provide a much-needed escape from a frenetic world.
But there’s something considerably more urgent about this production, that makes the work of Hollingworth more important, certainly in my personal sphere.
Here’s a collection of – let’s face it – specialist music which casts a spell on the first time listener. The stripped bare sound belies the rich textures and complex harmonic progressions. Warmth envelopes the listener, momentarily topped off by exuberant embellishments in the brass descants. This is an invigorating listen.
A lot of the time, I don’t necessarily understand the finer detail of this production. I don’t at first understand exactly what is involved in bringing music from such a distant time to life. What I appreciate is how the music itself prompts a near-naive fascination with the genre, prompting me to find out more about the musicological processes involved in bringing this to life.
I Fagiolini’s new website does much to make that possible. All I need is my trusty Spotify subscription and links through to some of scores now made available to follow along to and suddenly what was previously a fairly passive listening experience has now been transformed into an opportunity to delve a little deeper into the music.
It’s true. Making scores available on the internet – or indeed programme notes – isn’t exactly groundbreaking. Such information has always been there if only I’d made the effort to look for it. But the fact someone has had the presence of mind to think ‘we might as well make it slightly easier for people to get at this stuff’ makes Robert Hollingworth and I Fagiolini’s work something to keep an eye out for in the future.
And if I’m thinking like that as a result of listening to a Spotify album or browsing a manuscript, then arts publicists might want to take note. You don’t need hyperbole to push an album to the top of a specialist music chart. Straightforward user-centred thinking will suffice.