Review – Toccata: Exploring improvisation, York Early Music Festival

Thomas Dunford
12 Jul 2016 @ 12.56 pm
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Thomas Dunford
Thomas Dunford

Toccata: Exploring improvisation with Kevyan Chemirani & Thomas Dunford

National Centre For Early Music, Walmgate, York

Sun July 10 @ 8pm

Festival website

There is something rather exciting about sitting in a concert venue with very little idea about what is going to be performed to you.

Musical collaborations can often be half-hearted or even somewhat forced but it was very clear from the moment these two performers walked on to the stage at the NCEM the mutual respect and admiration they had for one another.

The concert began with virtuosic solos from both performers that segued into duets. Both Dunford and Chemirani played with sensitivity and a clear understanding of one another’s musical world, particularly in Chemirani’s original work To Bandegui.

In Henry Purcell’s Music for a while the audience was treated to an interesting role reversal as the lute became the time-keeper to the zarb (Persian goblet drum), which played a free solo above the famous ground bass.

The real highlight of the evening was Thomas Dunford’s sublime solo performances of John Dowland lute works.

Dunford’s beautiful warmth of tone and brilliant ornamentation possessed an unrivalled intensity from the rest of the performance. This was proved by the unison sigh of satisfaction and relief from the audience at the end of both Semper Dowland semper dolens and A Dream.

Sadly some of the percussion improvisations over Dowland obscured the intricacies of the lute playing and didn’t really enhance the original music. The zarb improvisations also began to become limited in its responses.

Despite that, this is a project worth pursuing as there is genuine promise in some of the ideas, particularly in the original compositions of Kevyan Chemirani.

It would be interesting to see how other composers would respond to the task of writing for this unique combination of instruments.