Sounding different in an intriguing concert - The Leamington Observer

Sounding different in an intriguing concert

Matthew Salisbury 14th Feb, 2024 Updated: 23rd Feb, 2024   0

‘THAT’S not something you see every day’ could be the overriding impression of an evening with the baryton and its unique sound.

The internet will doubtless abound with pictures and descriptions for those who seek certainty, but imagine an ancient fretted cello with a carefully-hidden hammered zither on the back and you’re not far off.

Mainly bowed but with the secret weapon of strings vibrating in sympathy before being pinged by the player’s thumb it’s an instrument whose eccentricities make it hard to define.

The six pieces offered in this programme can be easily divided into two categories; music by Haydn and music by someone else. Haydn wrote extensively for the baryton as part of a trio. Of the three pieces played here, the most successful is probably the latest he composed.

The instrument’s idiosyncrasies clearly take some getting used to when it comes to composing. Producing melody for the conventional bowed part is fairly straightforward, but the plucked strings add a dimension which complicates the puzzle.

Quite how adept any player could be in bowing, fretting and plucking simultaneously governs what can reasonably expected. But by the later Haydn, the closing item on the programme, he seemed to have it covered and what we get is an instrument playing meaningful music rather than merely demonstrating a party trick, albeit a mighty impressive one.

For all Haydn’s qualities, it was in the music of his lesser-known contemporary Andreas Lidl that the instrument really came into its own. Two three-movement Divertimentos showcased a tenderness and lyricism not apparent in earlier works as well as a dazzling spray of speedy triplets testing the ability of the gut strings – and their player – to show a bit of bite.

The trio – often necessarily a solo baryton with supportive backing – played beautifully throughout. With St Mary’s being perhaps a little less full than in previous series concerts, the acoustic became even more overwhelming and the trio’s very gentle, very soft sound was occasionally a little lost.

But for all the problems of getting volume enough to fill so vast a space the sound was there, and it’s a sound those who came out of curiosity will long remember, and a pub quiz question we’ll all be able to answer.

Visit for details of more chamber and early music concerts in the coming months.








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