Did you catch ‘2Day’ on Friday? Radio 2 mixed things up for the day, changing the scheduling to showcase the variety of music played by the station with this year’s focus on the ‘Orchestra’. Each programme looked at the groups of instruments in an orchestra throughout the day.
I liked that I was learning as well as enjoying a brilliant mix of music. For example did you know that an orchestra does not include a saxophone?
So I thought that I’d take a look at Fiori Musicali and learn a bit more about the music they play. First off Fiori Musicali means Musical Flowers which is why I refer to them as ‘them’ and not ‘it’!
Who makes up Fiori Musicali?
You can hear Fiori in a variety of guises. First there’s the chamber orchestra (normally between a dozen and twenty instrumentalists – violins, violas, cellos, flutes, oboes, trumpets and drums – that sort of thing). Then there’s the chamber ensemble (just a few principal players from the orchestra playing together in a small group). There’s also the Fiori Choir (a bunch of choral singers who perform with Fiori- these are the guys that sing the Hallelujah chorus when they do Handel’s Messiah!). And last (but not least), there;s there Fiori Village Choir (what you might call the ‘training choir’- singers who don’t necessarily aspire to the Fiori Choir, but are happy to fly the flag for weddings and memorial services).
We’ll be meeting some of Fiori at a later date but if you’d like to know more about the boss lady you can find more info here.
Fiori Chamber Orchestra
I’d heard of ‘chamber orchestras’ but didn’t know that they are (basically) smaller orchestras. Fiori have around 12-24 players, whereas a symphony orchestra (one of the big boys you might see at the Last Night of the Proms) will have around 60 plus instruments.
Interesting fact: all orchestras have a full string section. This includes first violins, second violins, violas, cellos and basses (including double bass).
Orchestras really started to develop during the Baroque period which is roughly between 1600 and 1750. Orchestral performances haven’t always been the big affairs that we see today where audiences of hundreds and thousands (the number, not the cake and ice cream topping) are entertained in huge venues.
Performances were much more intimate and the music was kind of discreet. It wasn’t that loud either, mostly because the instruments in those days (being made of natural materials) weren’t very loud. And anyway as the concerts were usually in small venues, there wasn’t the need to throw the sound to the back of a large auditorium.
Modern instruments have been developed to make much more sound, and are often made from different materials than they would’ve been in, say, 1650. For example, modern violins use metal strings, whereas back in Baroque times the violin strings were made from gut. Yes, that’s right gut. And the bow for these older violins is a different shape from a modern bow, which gives the instrument a softer sound.
Why get louder?
Someone decided they could make a few quid from charging people to listen to performances. Once they realised that people were up for it, it didn’t take long to figure out that they’d get more money if more people attended. But they’d be dealing with complaints if someone had paid to listen to a performance and couldn’t hear what was going on.
The solution was to play louder and get more people in! If you could get the instruments to make more sound, get more people to play the same parts, the music would be more heard more easily and they’d get away with charging more.
One of the unique points about Fiori Musicali is that although they play all sorts of classical stuff, they specialise in Baroque so when doing so they use traditionally made instruments which gives them a more authentic style. You get a performance that is as close as it can get to what it would have sounded like when the composer wrote the music, played in a way that the composer would have wanted to hear it.
Fiori play classical music from more recent times on more modern instruments as well but it doesn’t mean that they can’t bring that traditional, intimate feel to their modern performances.
In fact, Fiori teamed up with legendary Spanish guitarist José María Gallardo de Rey, to perform the stunning Concierto de Aranjuez composed by Rodrigo. The guitarist insisted that he be miked up so that the subtle sound of the guitar could be heard.
I won’t tell you the exact words of Director of Fiori Penelope Rapson when she told me her response but it went along the lines of “over my dead body”! After some deliberation Penelope’s resolve, that the performance should be more intimate and in keeping with how it would have been performed when it was written in 1939, (i.e. no mikes!) stood stronger. And you know, everyone in the audience heard every note from the guitar (without a mike in sight!)
Interesting fact: Baroque is often directed (conducted) by someone playing the harpsichord. But as performances started getting bigger, in the time of Mozart for example, the conductor had to come to the front of the orchestra, to keep in charge of the growing number of players! I mean, you can’t just have a free-for-all now can you? as they couldn’t get themselves heard over everyone else!
This is the sort of information you can expect from Fiori and Penelope because they’re HIP. Not in the way that my nan tries to be cool and down with the kids (no offence Nan) but HIP stands for historically informed performance. You get to enjoy the music in a variety of gorgeous venues to suit the intimate atmosphere, while learning and getting feel for what it was like at the time it was written.
But don’t worry, you won’t have to give up your phone or Sky+!
If you’d like to see some of the videos from 2DAY, click here.
Thanks for dropping by!