The Early Music Gets The Worm
Written by Bwog Staff
|Photo via TheTallisScholars.co.uk|
Bwog’s resident Hildegard fanboy Peter Thompson spent his Thursday evening at the final concert of the Miller Theatre’s Early Music series and sent back this dispatch, lovingly illuminated, on vellum.
The Miller Theatre concluded its Early Music series on Thursday, April 2 with “Music for Double Choir” at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin on 46th St. The program was presented by the UK-based Tallis Scholars, one of the world’s most prestigious professional choral groups. The ensemble of 10, led by renowned conductor Peter Phillips, sang music from the 16th and 17th centuries.
The first half of the concert comprised of music by three Renaissance stalwarts, Palestrina, Peter Philips and Orlande de Lassus. The Tallis Scholars handled the selections with characteristic ease and graceful musicality: Palestrina’s perfect “Surge illuminare” was sung cleanly, without affectation, and Philips’ “Ecce vicit Leo” and “Ave Jesu Christe” were short, splendid gems. The singers also treated Lassus’ “Missa Bell’Amfitrit’altera” with the sonorous elegance it deserves.
Yet while the first half of the program was dependably pleasant, the second half was far more interesting. Orlando Gibbons’ masterpiece “O clap your hands” started in a deceptively quiet and understated manner before blossoming into a joyful symphony. The little-heard “Lamentations” by French composer Dominique Phinot revealed the Tallis Scholars at their best, as they masterfully explored the piece’s emotional depth. Selections from Alonso Lobo and Jean Mouton served as short devotions to the Virgin Mary, and the concert concluded with the surprisingly rhythmic “Magnificat” by Hieronymus Praetorius, which was delightfully and energetically performed.
If there was a shortcoming to the performance, it was because of the awkwardness of the group’s composition. The higher voices both outnumber and seem to dominate the lower voices. Though this gives the choir an exquisitely light, transcendent tone, it also seems to distort the musical experience, making the lower voices harder to hear. But this is more a comment on the uniqueness of the group than a complaint.
The Miller Theatre has several concerts left in the season. On Monday, April 6, Tuesday, April 7 and Wednesday, April 8, Pacifica Quartet will offer free lunchtime performances of Mendelssohn’s Quartets in Philosophy Hall. On Friday, April 17, pianist Christopher O’Riley will present a program of Nick Drake and Claude Debussy. The Miller Theatre also recently released information regarding next year’s concerts, which will include a return visit from The Tallis Scholars and two world premieres.