Fontanella left audience entranced

THE Wigtown County Buildings enjoyed a full house last Sunday when the Fontanella recorder ensemble came to town at the invitation of Newton Stewart and District Music Club.

The audience was treated to an exciting programme of music played on instruments ranging from a 15-piece Renaissance and Baroque recorder collection, through to an impressive set of contemporary Paetzold Square Bass recorders. The largest instrument is a sub-contra bass measuring over six feet in height, known to Fontanella as their Big Mamma.

The Fontanella Quintet features five of Britain’s most talented recorder players. Their repertoire is both innovative and wide ranging. The Wigtown concert, entitled Pastime with Good Company, included music from 15 composers spanning a period of around 600 years.

Appropriately enough, the concert opened with a lovely rendering of Pastime with Good Company (attributed to Henry V111). Other composers from the early Tudor period featured William Byrd, William Cornish and Hugh Aston.

Music from the Elizabethan court included pieces by Orlando Gibbons, Antony Holborne, John Wilbye and Luca Marenzio.

According to many listeners, Fontanella’s rendering of a slow Pavan by John Dowland, Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens (translated Always Dowland, Always Sad), was breathtakingly beautiful.

From the Baroque era came music from two of the greatest pop star composers of their day, namely JS Bach and Henry Purcell. A gorgeous virtuosic arrangement of the famous Greensleeves tune, also from the Baroque period, was truly memorable.

Contemporary pieces included works by Jeseph Kosma (much noted for his film scores), and Geoffrey Winters, a notable recorder revivalist.

Fontanella’s rendering of The Elephant from The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens produced what must surely be regarded as among the most hilarious elephant stomps ever to have emerged from a musical instrument.

Steve Marshall, one of today’s best loved recorder composers, was commissioned by Fontanella to write Dinosaurs, a fun story for playing on their collection of Square Bass recorders. The result was a magical transportation backwards in time to the Jurassic period. Dinosaurs can be heard to squabble, jostle, scratch and generally get in each other’s way and all to the accompanying sounds of a heavy assemblage of bubbling reptillian stomachs.

A stealthy and mischevious arrangement of the Pink Panther provided a welcome encore.

Fontanella has brought an unconventional approach to recorder playing, exploring and extending the instrument’s range with music from the Renaissance to present day jazz arrangements, Its members work closely with instrument makers, including Adrian Brown (Amsterdam) and Herbert Paetzold (Germany).

After the concert, Fontanella extended their visit to Wigtown, running tutorials for local recorder aficicionados and primary schools. The group have made a huge impact on schools and music groups across the UK, many of whom have benefited greatly from their workshops and master classes. Fontanella certainly left their mark on Wigtown. The concert auidence was entranced.

Bill Sandiford