Back to the Royal Conservatory yesterday for the first time since the plague struck. Ironically the programme, which had originally featured the Dover Quartet with Davóne Tines, had to be rearranged at less than 24 hours notice due to one of the Dovers testing positive for COVID. What we got instead was two mini concerts. In the first half the New Orford Quartet performed works by Caroline Shaw and Mendelssohn and in the second Davóne Tines, with Rachael Kerr, performed excerpts from his Recital No. 1: MASS.
The Shaw piece, Entr’acte, was a playful riff on Haydn’s op.77 no.2. It’s largely atonal with lots of extended technique but every now and then fragments of 18th century dance music will pop out of the background. I don’t often find instrumental music funny but this is. I almost laughed out loud in places. Great fun and very well played. The Mendelssohn was also beautifully played but it’s not music I could get very excited about.
Davóne Tines mini-recital consisted of excerpts from his show Recital No.1:MASS. It’s a fascinating piece. Short sections of mass text, sung a cappella in settings by Caroline Shaw are interwoven with pieces on related themes by Bach, Margaret Bonds and Moses Hogan. This leads into Julius Eastman’s amazing a cappella piece Prelude to The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc before concluding with Igee Dieudonné/Davóne Tines’ Vigil. There’s more on the piece here.
Most of the recital was sung a cappella with piano featuring mainly for the Bach, which was for me, the least successful part of the whole thing. It was sung and played very expressively in a way that totally fitted the style of the overall programme but which, at the same time, sounded odd to modern ears (or at least mine). It reminded me of Klemperer’s Bach recordings and I definitely prefer something more metrical and clearly articulated. But really that’s a minor quibble in the context of a truly astonishing performance by Tines. He has a voice of great beauty and power and a tremendous range. At one moment he is floating high pianissimos and the next making the hall vibrate with deep, deep bass. He also has all the colours and great intelligence of expression. This was best exemplified in the Eastman work with its pounding repetitions that lead to an almost nightmarish denouement. For ten minutes or so we are hearing the voices in Joan of Arc’s head telling her how to face her accusers. It’s wonderful and left me shaking.
Foe an encore we got another mash up. Again a cappella, Tines sang the baritone part from Beethoven’s Ode to Joy followed by a hymn based on the same text and melody in English seguing into Nobody Knows the rouble I’ve Seen. Very well done and witness to quite astonishing stamina. I really want to see this young man on an opera stage!
It was amazing to be back in a real concert hall, made even more special by some exceptional music making. It was also the quietest I’ve heard an audience in forever. I guess sneezing and coughing have now joined farting as socially unacceptable for not one was to be heard yesterday in a hall that all too often sounds like a parody of a TB hospital. Silver lining?
The concert was livestreamed (ticketed) and is supposed to be available for seven days on the RCM’s website. I can’t find any reference to it there but should you feel inclined to buy a key I’m sure the RCM Box Office would oblige.