Gig Review:
The Soul Of The Fiddle
Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre, London SE1,
Monday 29th March 2004, 7.45pm
Photo of The Soul Of The Fiddle Final Jam
The Soul of the Fiddle, closing jam in rehearsal. From L: Nedim Nalbantoglou, Sophie Solomon,
Jon Spiers, Jon Boden, Sven Olav Lyngstad, Bob Winquist, Rick Townend, Kyriakos Gouventas,
Tim Davies, Adrian Farmer, and David Lasserson
All photos this page by Richard A. Sharma and Copyright © Richard A. Sharma 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, copying, or storage by any means whatsoever including but not limited to electronic/digital means without written prior permission prohibited. Linking to individual photographs on this page prohibited.
The Soul Of The Fiddle

The Fiddle in Traditional Cultures
Nomadica - Roots Revisited presented by Multiculti
in association with Jewish Music Institute SOAS
as part of the Genius of the Violin series
Queen Elizabeth Hall
South Bank Centre
London SE1
Monday 29th March 2004, 7.45pm


Introduced by Verity Sharpe of BBC Radio 3 Late Junction









Date of Review: 2004-04-01

Link Button - Top of Page
Featuring:

Sophie Solomon (Oi Va Voi) - Jewish Klezmer Violin, with
David Lasserson - viola
Alan Bern - accordion

Jon Boden - Contemporary English Folk Fiddle, with
Jon Spiers - melodeon

Rick Townend - Bluegrass Fiddle, double bass, with
Bob Winquist - fiddle
Adrian Farmer - guitar
Tim Davies - double bass, banjo

Sven Olav Lyngstad - Norwegian Hardanger Fiddle

Nedim Nalbantoglou - Turkish Folk Fiddle, with
Mehdi Habbab - oud

Kyriakos Gouventas - Greek-Anatolian Fiddle, with
Andreas Tsekouras - piano

Balu Raghuraman - Indian (Karnatic) Violin, with
M. Balachandar - mridangam
R.N. Prakash - gatam

Photo of The Soul Of The Fiddle Final Jam
The Soul of the Fiddle, closing jam in rehearsal. From L: Sven Olav Lyngstad, Bob Winquist,
Andreas Tsekouras, Rick Townend, Kyriakos Gouventas, Tim Davies, Adrian Farmer,
David Lasserson, M. Balachandar, Alan Bern (in deep shadow), and Balu Raguhraman

Soul Of The Fiddle - In Deepest Shade
Photo of Jon Boden - Contemporary English Folk Fiddle
Jon Boden - Contemporary English Folk Fiddle, during rehearsals

Photo of Sven Olav Lyngstad - Norwegian Hardanger Fiddle
Sven Olav Lyngstad - Norwegian Hardanger Fiddle, during rehearsals

Photo of Balu Raguhraman - Indian (Karnatic) Violin
Balu Raghuraman -one of the great rising stars of the South Indian or Karnatic classical violin, during reharsals


Nedim Nalbantoglou - Turkish Folk Fiddle, during reharsals



Although essentially, there is nothing but good to be said about the The Soul of the Fiddle concert per se, regrettably I feel compelled to start off on a highly critical note concerning the lighting and stage management. In both cases, clearly the wrong person, however well-meaning a volunteer perhaps, had been given the job. Whoever was in charge of the lighting would not have lasted five minutes in an amateur dramatics society somewhere out in the sticks. I can and do speak from experience here, having covered such events in the past, and I can honestly say that I have never encountered anything but the most professional lighting on such occasions. The lighting for The Soul of the Fiddle was at best shambolic, at worst a complete catastrophe and did for several people I spoke to detract significantly from the enjoyment of the concert.

Performers' eye sockets that are turned into dark caverns most of the time just don't cut it, nor do performers left in deep partial or even almost complete shadow, especially so at a prestigious venue such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and moreover as momentous an event such as this. People want to see the whites of the performers' eyes before possibly shooting them! Such excessive contrasts in lighting are generally most unattractive, and so are grotesque shadows on faces, to put things no stronger.

Obviously, such conditions are not conducive to excellence in photography either and made this a complete nightmare. Lower than usual overall light levels were not helpful either, often necessitating exceedingly slow shutter speeds. (Try hand-holding a 400mm fast long tom at 1/8 of a second sometime.) Fortunately, I covered myself with a good number of shots during rehearsals, where the auditorium lights still provided at least some fill-in, and most of the photographs shown here are taken from that as later conditions for the most part proved just too atrocious.

The stage management likewise was fairly chaotic during rehearsals, and downright incompetent in respect of the Indian musicians. Stage management that isn't aware, or does not inform itself, that Indian musicians require a carpet or some other kind of floor covering to sit upon just isn't worthy of the name.

But enough. What of the concert itself?

Photo of David Lasserson, Sophie Solomon
David Lasserson and Sophie Solomon enjoying a jam in the green room

The Jewish Music Institute and its tireless Geraldine Auerbach, who actually put this event together, had a mammoth organisational nightmare on their hands. Where and how do you find some half dozen or so exponents of various traditions of the folk fiddle, and first rate performers at that, and then make sure they all would be available on the same date? One really can't envy such a task and has to step back in admiration at how well this challenge was met. Even more so considering this was all arranged within the space of less than a full year!

And what a marvelous line-up of top-notch artists from such a variety of broadly folk traditions it was too.

Sophie Solomon is indubitably one of the most gifted klezmer violinists of her generation, and is generally best known through her association with her klezmer-inspired band Oi Va Voi. For The Soul Of The Fiddle, she had teamed up with stellar violist David Lasserson and accordionist Alan Bern for a performance of klezmer violin from the Eastern European Jewish tradition. In the Queen Elizabeth Hall's green room sparks were already flying during an impromptu jam between Ms. Solomon and Lasserson prior to the concert, and you knew that their performance was going to be something extra special.

Photo of David Lasserson, Sophie Solomon, Alan Bern
David Lasserson, Sophie Solomon, Alan Bern in concert

And so indeed it was. Sophie Solomon and David Lasserson gelled with pure incendiary chemistry. Somehow, you couldn't help but get the impression that here was a Paganini of klezmer fidl who had made a deal with the very bad boy from down below. Sadly though I have to confess that this sparkling performance was somewhat marred for me by Ms. Solomon's almost constantly disconcertingly forward-thrusting pelvis. Call me old-fashioned, but I find that most unappealing and unbecoming of any nice young woman.

Link Button - Top of Page

Jon Boden on fiddle with Jon Spiers, melodeon, usually appearing as Spiers & Boden, are two of the best-known and most respected younger artists on the contemporary English folk scene and here showed why with an electrifying performance from the Morris and Country Dance repertoire of southern England. The devil does indeed have all the best tunes! At any rate, you could have thought that that was where Jon Boden's breathtaking fiddling came from. It is very gratifying to see - and hear - that the English folk revival lives on, or rather, that it has passed the "revival" stage and that English folk (and British Isles folk in general) is once again a vibrant living tradition and scene, quite similar in many respects to the klezmer revival of the 1970s/80s that has spurred such a vibrant scene today.

Photo of Rick Townend - Bluegrass Fiddle, with Bob Winquist, Adrian Farmer, Tim Davies
Rick Townend - Bluegrass Fiddle, with Bob Winquist, Adrian Farmer, Tim Davies - in concert

Another real treat, this time exploring the tradition of the Bluegrass fiddle of North America, came in the form of Rick Townend on fiddle and double bass, joined by Bob Winquist also on fiddle, Adrian Farmer on guitar, and Tim Davies on double bass and banjo. Perhaps not the most typical of Bluegrass ensembles but none the worse for it. Townend, who also plays 5-string banjo, guitar, mandolin, autoharp and dobro, is well respected as one of the UK's finest Bluegrass musicians. He and his co-conspirators provided a few delightful and sparkling examples of one of the newer traditions that nonetheless has deep roots in the folk traditions of the "old" world.

The Turkish violin tradition was represented by Nedim Nalbantoglou, accompanied on oud by Mehdi Habbab. Nalbantoglou is well known as a virtuoso of the violin in the Ottoman art music as well as folk traditions, and gave a spellbinding performance of dazzling brilliance.

From further East, Shri Balu Raghuraman, now based in London, is highly respected as one of the great masters of his generation of the South Indian or Karnatakic classical violin. He was joined here by M. Balachandar on mridangam (a double-headed Indian drum, often considered the ancestor of the better known North Indian tabla), and R.N. Prakash on gatam, basically a clay pot that has been adopted as a drum and capable of the most intricate rhythms and sound palette. Balu Raghuraman provided a stunning taster of Karnatakic music and its great intricacies and complexities (its use of microtones tends to be much more extensive as well as complex than in the North Indian or Hindustani tradition) as well as of his virtuosity as a violinist.

Photo of Balu Raghuraman, violin, with R.N. Prakash, gatam - in concert
Balu Raghuraman, violin, with R.N. Prakash, gatam - in concert

Sven Olav Lyngstad from Trondheim represented the tradition of the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. Renowned as both a classical violist and Hardanger fiddle folk musician, Lyngstad's performance was as enthralling as it was dazzling.

Link Button - Top of Page

The tradition of the Greek-Anatolian fiddle was brought to us by Kyriakos Gouventas, with Andreas Tsekouras at the piano. Although originally from an entirely classical background, Gouventas eventually devoted himself fully to traditional music and is a founder member of the well known group Primavera en Salonica. His performance proved utterly enchanting.

Photo of Kyriakos Gouventas - Greek-Anatolian Fiddle
Kyriakos Gouventas - Greek-Anatolian Fiddle, during rehearsals
Photo of Nedim Nalbantoglou, Turkish violin, with Mehdi Habbab, oud
Nedim Nalbantoglou, Turkish violin, with Mehdi Habbab, oud
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Photo of Kyriakos Gouventas, Greek-Anatolian fiddle, with Andreas Tsekouras, piano
Kyriakos Gouventas, Greek-Anatolian fiddle, with Andreas Tsekouras, piano

The concert's closing jam; from L: Nedim Nalbantoglou, Sophie Solomon, Jon Spiers, and Jon Boden

Overall then, The Soul of the Fiddle presented a programme of widely varying styles of fiddle or violin, but all of them unified by the excellence of the exponents. It also presented a reasonable cross-section of styles and traditions based around the "modern" European violin, indeed, more than might have seemed possible in the confines of a single concert.

Each and every single performance within The Soul of the Fiddle (and I confess here to not having stuck rigidly to their actual order of appearance) would have been worth the price of admission. Together, this presentation was almost priceless.


© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

Link Button - Top of Page


All original content except where stated otherwise © Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore.
All rights reserved.

All original art, web design and realisation, except where stated otherwise, by Logo - scarlet Eyebis . All rights reserved.