25 July 2012


They started with mediaeval singing and it was exquisite. Amarcord are a male vocal a cappella quintet from Leipzig. They formed from the St Thomas’ church boys choir and it shows.

The opening songs were short but sounded just what I’d expect. Deeply beautiful: exquisite and distilled (as in alembic) are words that came to mind when they started. The harmonies were perfect and so pure and I noticed the individual voices formed notes that swelled and decayed and merged so well with others so drew no attention to themselves. This was a fluid whole that mutated with glorious tones. Eminently suited to a cathedral acoustic. But these guys are showmen, too. They shared introductions to their songs and they were consistently on love and sex and even animals and love and sex. (Mmm, the boys are out of the cathedral now). They stood with arms at their sides, crooning and bellowing and clucking and humming with strongly-formed tones and mobile faces and a semi-circle formality, but there was cleverness in the somewhat corny presentation and commentary. I noticed this especially when they moved on, after the first set, to the 20th century and more complex harmonies and longer tunes, then further to a set of folk songs to finish the night. There was predictable Teutonic protocol but also a neatly structured show and a performance that was detailed, precise and pure. The jokey references I’d heard to a Boy Band of the a cappella set fitted perfectly well. There was humour and presentation and seductiveness along with the wonderful craft and musical precision. This is the new classical of sexy CD covers and pop-awareness. The finale on a mix of Skippy the bush kangaroo and barbeque was a nice alternative to more plebeian choices, and framed the show with humour. But back to the tones. I hadn’t unexpected such beauty from a male singing group. I put it down to the floating high tones, for the feel was anything but deep, despite the lineup of two basses, one baritone and two tenors. The tenors were high, even counter-tenor high. One bass billowed below but the general impression was of sweet and light. For me, this was unexpected and a pure delight. And getting back to the music. The group may have formed out of a church, but this was carnal. Here are some English translations of titles: Hassler Dancing and leaping; Gesulado When we part; Hassler I’m all a fluster; Anonymous When I drink claret. Then after the break, some more modern music: Schubert, Shumann, Marschner and Elgar on love and nature and Greek anthologies and Dvorak with love songs and Grieg with childrens’ songs. I particularly enjoyed the longer work by Cras (1925) called To the mountains with its modern harmonies. Then various folksongs from Cuba and Ghana and others and eventually Skippy… Great show. I was delighted and I was not alone.

Amarcord are named after Fellini’s wonderous recollection of childhood and comprises Wolfram Lattke (tenor), Martin Lattke (tenor), Frank Ozimek (baritone), Daniel Knauft (bass) and Holger Krause (bass). They were presented at the Llewellyn Hall by Musica Viva and were only delayed a few minutes by the alarm and evacuation and firemen.

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