In performance: 1610 Vespers
Folger celebrates a Monteverdi anniversary
by Charles T. Downey
On Saturday night the Folger Consort celebrated the 400th anniversary of the 1610 publication of Claudio Monteverdi's "Mass and Vespers for the Most Holy Virgin," with a performance of the Vespers portion at Washington National Cathedral. Monteverdi brought together pieces composed at different times and in every conceivable combination and style to form an encyclopedic work. Even the foremost authority on the piece, Jeffrey G. Kurtzman, has admitted that there is no one "authentic" performance: It was meant to have many possible realizations.
(read more after the jump)
This one used historical instruments, heard at their strongest as an ensemble in the sprightly "Sonata sopra Sancta Maria," especially the brilliant cornetto playing of Mack Ramsey and Kiri Tollaksen. The cathedral's crossing vibrated with the sound of all 14 players in an instrumental canzona by Giovanni Gabrieli, inserted into the work before the concluding "Magnificat" (the one for seven voices with instruments, not the six-voice alternate usually omitted in performance). In lieu of a conductor, lead violinist Julie Andrijeski and organist Webb Wiggins got a workout in knee bending and head bobbing to keep the ensemble together.
Having a conductor would have provided a central authority to address persistent balance issues among the 10 vocal soloists, all singing one to a part. Tenor Lawrence Reppert stood out of the ensemble like a sore thumb, with a braying, nasal sound and Germanic pronunciation of Latin. By contrast, the polished, lovely tone of tenor Aaron Sheehan, as the echo in "Audi coelum," outshone the rougher Robert Petillo on the principal part. Soprano Jolle Greenleaf, who replaced the ailing Ann Monoyios, sang with a simple, clear and flexible sound, taking the listener to flight with her at the end of the demanding "Pulchra es."
-- Charles T. Downey
Note: As mentioned in a previous post, the early-music ensemble Artek will also perform the 1610 Vespers at the National Gallery on January 17th.
January 11, 2010; 6:15 AM ET
Categories: local reviews
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