Bristol Ensemble, Notes For Women – St George’s

Saturday 28th April, 2018

This was another ticket I picked up in Bristol’s culture flash sale. It made tonight’s ticket just £9, which for live classical music is a complete bargain. Bristol Ensemble are a flexible orchestra, and the only dedicated one in the City. This concert was to celebrate the contribution of female composers, and was dubbed Notes for Women, the Early Years. A feminist classical celebration of creative women. For £9. You can see why I booked a ticket.

It was my second trip this week to the beautiful St George’s and I was back up in the gallery. As the front row was almost completely empty I moved forwards so that I had a great view, just over the tip of the stage, as well as a great position to listen from.

The concert began with a piece composed by Hildegard of Bingen, who died over 800 years ago. Famous as a writer and prophet as well as musician and composer, she left many pieces for us to still listen to centuries later. How amazing is that? That almost a milennia after she wrote it, her music is still being performed and heard.

Next we were treated to a harpsichord suite and some gorgeous violin and cello by the ensemble. Add in the supremely talented soprano, Mariana Flores, who’s dramatic and passionate performance carried the whole thing and you had a first half that flew past in moments.

After the interval there was the first violin sonata composed by a woman, Isabella Leonarda, in 1693, and it was lush. I found it very moving and a tremendous emotional release.

Mariana came back and sang like an absolute angel. It was proper spine tingling stuff, hairs standing on end and heart soaring to the sky stuff. What an incredible voice! So wonderfully backed by the cello and harpsichord. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore that I fall in love with styles of music I would not expect to, but I seem to be developing a love of the Baroque.

Bristol Ensemble had saved the best until last, however. We jumped forwards in time to early classical, for Violin Concerto 3 by Maddalena Sirmen and oh wow was it lovely. The violin soloist, Natalia Lameiko was astonishing. I had no idea the violin could be so delicate and beautiful. Her brilliance blindingly obvious even to me, who knows almost nothing about virtuoso performance. But talent is talent, and you know it when you hear it. Just like when Jeff Beck picks up a guitar. The programme confirmed what I had deduced, multi award winning Professor of Music, hailed by Lord Menuhin. I feel very lucky to have heard her play. It was pure brilliance.

My only complaint about this evenings concert, it was over too soon. I loved it. It was fabulous to have women’s contribution to music celebrated in this way, stretching back over the centuries to reach us anew in the 21st Century.

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