FringeReview UK 2019
Fours Company Gary Prior, Zoe Peate, Paul Newton, Bryony Prior perform a bewildering array of intimate masterpieces and out-loud bluesy film arrangements, from Renaissance to now.
After a Gin Jazz Trio last week Fours Company – a couple, their daughter and her partner – produce a bewildering variety of music-making from Gary Prior’s piano and guitar, Zoe Peate’s soprano, Paul Newton’s trumpet and Bryony Prior’s horn. It’s a consummate quartet all with multiple solo careers who jam as a family. Lucky us.
The very first items – that almost jazzy mid-baroque combo of voice and trumpet – almost got drowned by Newton’s playing out. Peate’s soprano just about triumphed however, in Allesandro (father of Domenico the sonata writer) in ‘Rompe Sprezza’ and ‘Mia tesoro’ from his cantatas – a form he originate to circumvent Roman fiats on opera.
Richard Strauss got more subtle treatment for his song with Prior’s horn-playing showing such delicacy that later on a baby started accompanying it, rather musically in fact. This was quietly spellbinding.
Newton returned with pizzazz for Bernstein’s Red, White and Blues in a wonderful snarl of Lenny’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs side, inhabiting just that right amount fob roadway, though a few alter objected. I expect Lenny wouldn’t have minded. Prior at the piano counterpointed well.
Saint-Saens’ Romance for Horn was again taken by both Priors with a wondrous delicacy and filigree French memorability, spun out even further in Abbott’s Alla Caccia. Wholly new to me.
In between these pieces Prior senior exchanged piano for guitar accompanying Peate as substitute lutenist for Dowland’s ‘Come again’ with that ‘to die’ and orgasmic fade out beloved of Elizabethans, still commanding a top range and with a hushed contrast to even the delicate horn playing that really is the most unusual juxtaposition I’ve encountered.
Peate was back after the Alla Caccia of her daughter to sing two exquisite settings by Henri Duparc (1848-1933) who feel silent for his last 48 years, after an agonizing neurological disturbance which left him rational but unable to compose cared for by his devoted Irish wife. Still his 17 songs have become the immortal cornerstone of French chanson. His wife perhaps inspired his songs. ‘Chanson Triste’ two lovers lying side by side was achingly done and the soft fall of ‘Extase’ was delicately star-ridden as the lovers swoon to temporary death.
Yamashita’s jazzy film-score world was brought out by an arranged combo of trumpet and horn in ‘Eternal Story’ which like Bernstein was bluesy yet distantly bleared with a cinematic gauze. Worth hearing again.
Finally Rogers and Hart’s take on The Comedy of Errors, The Boys From Syracuse had us ‘Falling in Love with Love’ delivered with a swing by Peate again who shows a true varietal gift from the intimacies of Dowland and Duparc through Scarlatti to Rogers’ great melodies. We really need this quartet back.