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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 18 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 16
Ensemble Caprice gives a fun night at Town Hall
Arts & Entertainment
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Ensemble Caprice gives a fun night at Town Hall

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

ENSEMBLE CAPRICE
EARLY MUSIC GUILD
TOWN HALL
April 12


Even when Matthias Maute played while walking in the audience aisles, the coordination between his recorder and that of Sophie Larivière (on stage) was so absolutely perfect that you would swear there was an ethernet cable connecting them. Their playing was apparently so second nature to them that everything they did seemed effortless. The same could be said for each of the other three performers. This was indeed an evening of polished performances.

Their group, Ensemble Caprice, hales from Canada, but has performed the world over and made many wildly successful recordings. This evening's program had the same title as their most popular CD, Salsa Baroque: Music of Latin America and Spain.

Technical precision of course does not alone make for great music making. In this instance, it was combined with showmanship, charm, wit and a particularly appealing source of lively early music that defied the limited means of traversing the Atlantic Ocean to yield a fruitful and unique cross-pollination of influences. With the exception of Heinrich Ignaz Biber (1644-1704), none of the many composers presented were familiar to this reviewer; yet all were immediately enjoyable and downright fun. Much of the music was highly rhythmic, often with complex and changeable patterns.

The fascinating rhythms were effectively articulated both by the aforementioned technical precision of the players and particularly by the art of percussionist Ziya Tabassian. Relatively short of stature and with a shaved scalp and an Apolo Ohno chin patch, he seduced this listener with an almost always present smile that reminded one of the Mona Lisa, only slightly less subtle. He was clearly at ease with African rhythms next to Latin dance beats, for which he employed an array of drums, tambourines, castanets, etc.

Perhaps most appealing of all were the lilting expressions of David Jacques on his Baroque guitar. I could have listened to him all night. Fortunately, he had several solos with which to enchant us. Equally proficient was Susie Napper on the Baroque cello. There were times when the delightfully nasal sound of this early instrument did not blend as well as others, but her expressive skill and dynamic personality added to the overall liveliness of the group.

The only vocal moment was when Maute assumed the costume and lantern of a night watchman, roaming the aisles and singing to the slumbering villagers that all was well. An instrumental encore followed that had the exotic allure of a slinky belly dancer performing before some overfed, reclining guests. Thus ended an entertaining evening of music that delighted, even if it lacked the gravitas of more developed musical forms.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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