CIMF review / Outstanding playing of unusual instruments

Music / CIMF Concert 18: I Bassifondi. At the Fitters Workshop, May 5. Reviewed by LEN POWER

I Bassifondi playing at the Fitters Workshop. Photo by PETER HISLOP

FREELY translated as “the wrong side of the tracks”, the three-member Italian group, I Bassifondi, played a number of works by mostly 17th century Italian composers.

The leader, Simone Vallerotonda, played the theorbo, the baroque guitar and the chitara battente; Federico Toffano played the colascione and the chitarra battente with Gabriele Miracle on various forms of percussion.  

It was a great opportunity to hear works played on the unusual string instruments by these highly accomplished players.

Commencing with a work composed by Giovanni Paolo Foscarini in Rome in 1640, the music had an earthy, almost harsh quality at first that was unfamiliar but fascinating. The melody from the guitar added sweetness to the sound that was very engaging overall.

Simone Vallerotonda explained that, in addition to the treatise of 1606 by Girolamo Montesardo which proposed using the alphabet for chord notation on the guitar, the term “alfabeto falso” (or false alphabet) included the same chords but “dirtied” with extraneous and crushed notes as harmonic colour. Italian guitarists of the early 17th century made this their own speciality.

The group played several works of the period that were varied – some with percussion quite dominant and others where individual instruments carried some quite exquisite melodies.

In the work by Hieronymus Kapsberger, the combination of theorbo and percussion was quite startling, producing a sound that could almost be mistaken as contemporary even though it was composed in 1640.

The nicely melodic 1655 work by Angelo Michele Bartolotti and the colourful 18th century Mexican piece by Santiago de Murcia were other highlights of the concert.

With the morning sun streaming in through the large side windows of the Fitters Workshop, the perfect atmosphere was created for this outstanding concert.

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