By Tim Sawyier
“A violist played a solo recital…” sounds like the beginning of a musicians’ joke.
However, when “violist” refers not to any alto member of the string section but to the consummate period viol specialist Jordi Savall, that phrase describes an engaging musical evening. University of Chicago Presents hosted such an event Friday night at Mandel Hall, where Savall was joined by Frank McGuire on bodhrán for an exploration of English and Celtic folk music dating mostly from the high Renaissance.
“Man & Nature: Musical Humors and Landscapes in the English, Irish, Scottish and American Traditions,” as the concert was laboriously subtitled, examined a largely and lamentably lost repertoire. Savall performed over thirty selections that he arranged into cogent sets of between four and six numbers, alternating between two period instruments—a 1750 six-string treble viol and a seven-string bass viol from 1697.
The Mandel Hall stage lighting was essentially blacked out for the entire concert, with Savall’s low music stand illuminated only by an Art Deco floor lamp on the stage. McGuire did not need any sheet music for the ostinatos he contributed on the bodhrán, a traditional hand-held Celtric frame drum. In addition to his accompanying duties, McGuire added some sartorial flair to proceedings, performing in a kilt.
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