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Early Music America reviews Boston Early Music Festival

I promised you more about BEMF, and some of what I want to say will take place over several posts. But I got the Fall Early Music America, and thought I'd comment on their reviews.

The fringe concerts are numerous, diverse, and crammed into a small number of time slots when there aren't official events, so it isn't that surprising that the EMA reviewers didn't review any of the ones I went to. But they at least mentioned all of the "main stage" events.

I like the idea of 11 PM concerts, but in practice, unless they're very lively indeed, I often find myself falling asleep, especially later in the week, which is strenuous for me. So although I expected them to be good concerts, I didn't go to the Wednesday night lute concert (EMA: soothed an audience of insomniacs) or the Thursday night Atalanta concert. I did as usual enjoy the Saturday night Tragicommedia concert of German drinking songs. But I would have been just as well off skipping the gaelic song and harp music concert on Friday.

I agree that the Newberry Consort multimedia presentation of the Cantigas de Santa Maria was one of the highlights of the festival, and I'll probably give you some more about that later.

EMA calls Emma Kirkby's Dowland performance "transcendant", and I agree with that. I was worried about going to a concert of lute songs in a space as big as Jordan Hall, but it wasn't a problem at all, even though my friends and I decided to stay in the nosebleed seats where my lingering cough wouldn't disturb as many people. (There's also more leg room there -- I don't know why those seats aren't sold to the long-legged at a premium.)

EMA says "The Hilliard Ensemble brought an admirable transparency and lucidity to a remarkably diverse repertoire." I liked the lucidity, but I would have prefered a real program to the "greatest hits" approach they took. I liked all the sixteenth century music better than all the other stuff, so I'd rather they'd just played that.

The Royal Wind Music concert did, as EMA reports, blow the audience away, but I share the reservations of David Schulenberg in the Boston Musical Intelligencer that they made a verbatim copy of what was on their CD in a repertoire that was intended to be improvised.

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