Mining that rich collection of Spanish Renaissance music, El Cancionero de Palacio, the high-profile early music body La Compania began its Recital Centre series on Thursday with loads of enthusiasm and the welcome assistance of soprano Lotte Betts-Dean whose agility and variety of timbre gave a refreshing added character to the ensemble’s work.   For the most part, this program alternated between purely instrumental and sung pieces, Betts-Dean making a vivid impact in less sparsely accompanied songs, like the anonymous gems Tres morillas and Que me queries, caballero? where the vocal line enjoyed the supple support of Rosemary Hodgson’s vihuela alone.

Director Danny Lucin and his group of experts mounted a well-rounded selection that covered a wide ground, from earthy dances like the hefty opening Rodrigo Martinez to restrained reflections found in Juan del Enzina’s elegant if mournful Triste Espana sin ventura.  But the Cancionero is loaded with surprises: angular melodies that maintain an essential fluency, steadiness of rhythm and metre that barely conceals asymmetrical phrase lengths, and a flexibility of structure that allows for full polyphonic interplay alongside simple lyrics delivered without ornamentation.

La Compania’s work is unfailingly enjoyable, principally because its members offer informed musicianship and security, best demonstrated on this night by two breakneck solo demonstrations from Lucin’s cornetto, the melding of rapid action with sombre textures from the sackbuts of Julian Bain and Glenn Bardwell, the infectious  buzz that entered the mix with Mitchell Cross’s penetrating shawm, and the ever-fresh and appropriate percussion choices of Christine Baker.
Clive O’Connell  

The Age

Celebrating a new CD, this estimable early music group moved from its usual operations in the Salon to the main Elizabeth Murdoch Hall. Thanks to an extra-welcome resonance; the flexibility of the group’s sackbuts, Julian Bain and Glenn Bardwell, shone out more clearly and director Danny Lucin’s often ornate cornetto line came across as less dominating.

An expert and vitally joyful tour of the Baroque style as transported to the American colonies by Spanish and Portuguese composers introduced many of us to a new consort of unfamiliar names.

Peppered by some of Gaspar Fernandes’ villancicos, La Compania bounded through this extraordinary Iberian musical transplantation to the New World, negotiating some subtle rhythmic ambiguities in the bouncy A la xacara xacarilla by Juan Gutierrez de Padilla and the concluding celebratory Convidando esta la noche by Juan Garcia de Zespedes.
Clive O’Connell

The Age

Back for another tour of late Renaissance and early Baroque territory, early music experts La Compania presented a program on Thursday that centred on Italian composers yet somehow found music, even from familiar names, that surprised and – for the most part – entertained.

What distinguished this performance was the sweeping ease of the players, at its best a splendidly voiced ensemble that wears its virtuosity lightly but makes music with an appealing brand of enthusiastic scholarship.

La Compania oscillates between everybody-in constructs of vivid sound complexes and sparsely textured pieces that, on this occasion, gave prominence to the theorbo of Rosemary Hodgson, Victoria Watts’ gamba, the cornetto of director Danny Lucin, and Brock Imison’s bassoon-like bass dulcian.

These thinned-out groups operated mainly as accompaniments for sung components – an Iste confessor by Sances, songs by Landi, Caccini, Frescobaldi, and a cleverly accomplished ballad-like work by Kapsberger, Avrilla mia, spiced by intriguingly placed bell-like interpolations from percussionist Christine Baker.

The group was well served by tenor Jacob Lawrence who participated in nearly every one of the program’s 14 elements, either through his confident and full-bodied voice – a pleasure when you consider how many underpowered vocalists are involved in animating this energy-packed historical period – or partnering Cath Shugg with a vibrato-less violin line.

Still, the spirit-warming buzz that La Compania generates comes principally from its hard-worked sackbuts, Julian Bain and Glenn Bardwell, and the twin dulcians of Brock Imison and Mitchell Cross.
Clive O’Connell 

The Age

Like a handful of other highflying groups, La Compañia presents concerts that heighten expectations …this early-music collective has dust-scattering bounce and clarity.

On Wednesday, in the close confines of the Rectal Centre’s Salon, director Danny Lucin and his insistent reedy cornetto led off a 16-part miscellany of works by composers active in or around Venice before the sonorous brass glories of the Gabrielis came to dominate. Composer Adrian Willaert who provided about half the program, had a clear-voiced interpreter in soprano Siobhan Stagg, who managed to be heard through woodwind, brass a pair of strings and Rosemary Hodgson’s lute. Much of the ensemble’s comes from the shifting colours of unfamiliar instruments, especially from Mitchell Cross and Brock Imison oscillating between four organpiepe/recorder-like shawm and dulcians. Largely thanks to this duo, along with a pair of trombone-sackbuts and Rachael Beesley’s violin supporting Lucin, the nights unknown voices – Cara, Guami, Vincentino, Bassano – came to vivid life as the program moved from a solemn Ave Regna Caelorum to the all-in finale, Gastoldi’s rousing L’innamorato.

The Age

In an uplifting harnessing of forces, the Consort of Melbourne collaborated with that expert early music ensemble, La Compañia, in a thoroughly engrossing account of the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610. This night was demanding for all participants, vocal and instrumental, as Warwick Trevelyan-Jones directed a harnessed but ebullient celebration of sonorities, the stress about articulation often associated with period instrument playing nowhere to be found as the violins, sackbuts and cornetti bounded through this seminal work, escorting an 18- strong group of gifted singers with two splendid tenors.

The Age

La Compañia, the local early music group, gave the Tuesday night Sunset recital, dividing their time between the Tudor period and the roughly contemporary world of Spanish Renaissance music. Some of the company’s members are familiar faces… Along with these comes a back-line of brass and reeds that never fails to delight because of its members’ reliability under stress and the fervour they bring to their work. Even in a long and rhythmically complex work like the evening’s finale, El Fuego by Mateo Flecha the Elder, the sackbuts of Glenn Bardwell and Bob Collins remained firm in delivery and true in pitch.

Mitchell Cross plays the dangerously exposed shawm, the most penetrating instrument of the group, with similar self-assurance, matched by the dulzian of Simon Rickard. But the one to watch in La Compañia is cornetto master Danny Lucin, who treats his difficult instrument with the sort of fluency that Genevieve Lacey brings to the recorder. La Compañia are performance purists; they don’t interlard their work with commentary. But you can wait a long time before having the chance to relish such a telling combination of passion and scholarship.

The Age

This concert featured the frottola, the popular secular song of northern Italy in the early 16th century with vocal works and instrumental interludes by some of its greatest exponents including composers Marchetto Cara and Bartolomeo Tromboncino. The dynamic consort of eight musicians, led by director Danny Lucin, breathed fresh life into 500-year-old music. In addition to the familiar lute and viola da gamba they featured the sounds of more unusual period instruments such as the cornetto – like a recorder crossed with a trumpet – and the shawm, dulcian and sackbut.

Soprano Siobhan Stagg sang beautifully with a pure vocal without vibrato, impressive characterisation and pleasing ornamentation.

The musicians played at least two instruments combining to produce different sound qualities in part suggested by the text. Much of the music is in strophic repeated verse form with interest generated by increasing levels of ornamentation during the repeats.

The Age

Period music experts La Compania gave an earnest airing to music from the time of Elizabeth I, with an almost inevitable focus on the songs of John Dowland. Filling in the spaces between Siobhan Stagg’s fluent accounts of Come again and Flow my tears, the ensemble, headed by Danny Lucin’s cornetto, bounded through galliards, pavanes and allemandes from less familiar names such as Anthony Holborne to even more obscure ones such as Innocentio Alberti.

Other Dowland works showed Stagg’s purity of intonation and her generally reliable breath control in the long arches of Flow my tears and the slightly more mobile Now, O now, the soprano’s contributions given a sterling context by the instrumental contributions where Lucin’s fluent top line found an agile match in the dulcians of Mitchell Cross and Brock Imison. Apart from a few dances that gave room to the gambas of Victoria Watts and Laura Moore, the recital’s sound complex was dominated by the earthy reediness of the three wind players, coupled with the crackling lute and renaissance guitar of Rosemary Hodgson.

The Age

Those who came to hear the Consort/La Compañia combination once again realised the splendid quality of their entertainment, the two groups collaborating in Christmas music as it might have been heard in a Renaissance Italian court chapel… the best moments came last with a Praetorius bracket of two dances displaying the Compañia’s clean expertise, two versions of In dulci jubilo from the combined forces, and a moving realisation of the essence of Christmas with Quem pastores.

The Age

Keep your eyes out for La Compañia. Its program was exciting in all respects: the instruments are deftly handled and rich in possibilities; the players kept in step throughout a great deal of rapid-moving dance music; there is a verve and bite to their style. Full marks for musicianship, variety and particularly, for enjoyment value.

The Age

La Compañia gave us unadulterated pleasure. It is reassuring to see early music aficionados wearing their talents without a grave pretension. The sackbuts of Glen Bardwell and Bob Collins mirror each other so closely it is hard to tell them apart without watching the movement of the their slides. Danny Lucin who plays the much maligned cornetto with impressive fluency and expressiveness: Mitchell cross oscillates with virtuosic ease from shawm to dulcian; Victoria Watts’ gamba and Rosemary Hodgson’s vihuela frame the group’s sole singer, soprano Vivien Hamilton.

The Age

The Melbourne based ensemble La Compañia entreated us to the realm of the Spanish renaissance. Here, a dedicated group brought the epoch alive with their expertise on original instruments and scholarship. This is a handsome ensemble whose humble performance demeanour belies a fluid virtuosity.

Herald Sun

In the year of the Voice this (Melbourne International Arts) Festival …Among the trivialisations have emerged several worthy recitals and a few fine ones …La Compañia oozed class and consistency in its tour of Tudor and Spanish Renaissance music.

The Age

Melbourne based group, La Compañia. this combination gave the proceedings more musical weight. La Compañia introduced both halves of the concert with rousing instrumental numbers, and Bob Collins on Spanish bagpipes wonderfully enlivened the acoustic with -some sonic barbarism that nevertheless blended in well with his companions.

The Age

Early music group La Compañia gave more than a glimpse of 16th century Spanish music in an exhilarating concert. The rhythmic energy of the dance music was irresistible, while the sultry voice of Vivien Hamilton added an even more colourful dimension.

The Ballarat Courier

The Consort of Melbourne singers and that excellent period-instrument ensemble La Compañia observed the 400th anniversary of the publication of Monteverdi’s Vespers in a performance that delighted for its high standard and fluency; the 90-minute duration passed rapidly, the whole accomplished with remarkably few slips and an illuminating vigour. Danny Lucin, director of La Compañia, headed a brass quintet of confident cornetti and sackbuts, setting the bar pretty high right from the opening glorious fabric of Monteverdi’s recycled Deus, in adjutorium, the whole company bounding through the familiar, flashy sonata. While La Compañia is a well-known force, the revelation…

The Age

Renaissance celebrations were clearly rowdy affairs but, as Tuesday evening’s concert from La Compañia stylishly demonstrated, they also had their moments of elegance and subtlety. As part of the Melbourne Festival’s Chamber Music Sunset Series ‘Exquisite Song’, La Compañia presented a program of English and Spanish music from the 16th and early 17th centuries. The packed audience was treated to an impressive variety of pieces, ranging from stately court dances such as the Pavan and Galliard by Innocento Alberti – an Italian musician active at the Tudor court in England – to a catchy chaconne by Juan Arañés, a work rooted in the popular dance rhythms of late Renaissance Spain. Extrovert pieces like these – played by the full ensemble with its complement of cornetto, shawm, dulcian and sackbuts (not to mention drums, violin, viola da gamba and a variety of early plucked instruments) – were interspersed with more reflective, intimate works, such as the two wistful songs from the “Henry VIII manuscript”, in which soprano Vivien Hamilton was accompanied by the soft sounds of the viola da gamba (Victoria Watts) and lute (Rosemary Hodgson), while Lizzie Pogson tastefully ornamented the simple melodies on her Renaissance violin.

Ornamentation and improvised variations are the key to bringing Renaissance secular music to life, and La Compañia are well-versed in these techniques, spicing-up the repetitive rhythms of the dance music with some virtuoso embellishments from, say, Danny Lucin’s cornetto or the raucous shawm of Mitchell Cross. The ensemble’s intonation was near flawless – no mean feat with such otherwise recalcitrant instruments – and they blended well with the strong soprano voice of Vivien Hamilton. Not always strong enough, though, to prevent it from occasionally being swamped by the full ensemble, particularly in the more extrovert pieces such as Arañés’ chaconne and ‘El Feugo’ (‘The Fire’) by Mateo Flecha the Elder . Vivien was heard to best effect in such works as Edward Johnson’s “Elisa is the fayrest Quene”, a sop to the vanity of the elderly Elizabeth I but sung here with such rapt intensity that what seems on a paper a mere work of sycophantic praise was transformed into a breathtakingly passionate hymn of love. My personal favourite, though, was the villanesca ‘A un niño Ilorando’ (‘To a crying child’), a nativity piece by Francisco Guerrero, one of 16th century Spain’s most important composers. Here Vivien’s voice seemed to become one with the reedy tones of the two dulcians (Mitchell Cross and Simon Rickard), producing an ethereal sound which, combined with the work’s swaying – almost hypnotic – rhythm, will ensure that this work will haunt me for days to come. ‘Exquisite song’ indeed.

Mark Shepheard 3MBS

To finish of the weekend with a bang, the early music group La Compañia will play early Italian baroque works with its colourful, individualistic panache.

The Age