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Opera
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by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Symphony
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Choral and Vocal
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by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, May 28, 2022
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Thursday, May 19, 2022
Symphony
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by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 8, 2022
Chamber
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Chamber
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Recital
UNIQUE ELEGANCE IN GALBRAITH GUITAR RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Friday, April 29, 2022
Symphony
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by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 24, 2022
Choral and Vocal
A SPIRITUAL FAURE REQUIEM IN GOOD FRIDAY CANTIAMO CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Friday, April 15, 2022
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW

Tenor Derek Chester

BACH SOLOSITS PERFORM A 400-YEAR OLD MASTERPIECE IN BELVEDERE

by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, January 29, 2010

The American Bach Soloists celebrated Jan. 29 the four-hundredth anniversary of Monteverdiís towering Vespero della Beata Vergine (1610) at St. Stephenís Church in Belvedere. It was a stunning performance. Conductor Jeffrey Thomas presided over a stellar collection of singers and instrumentalists brought from all over the United States, including soloists tenor Derek Chester, and sopranos Jennifer Ellis and Abigail Haynes Lennox. They were supported by a superb group of soloists and a chorus of 17.

The Monteverdi Vespers do not exist as a single manuscript, but similar to Bachís B minor Mass (written a hundred and twenty years later) it is a demonstration of the composerís mastery of many different styles, both early and contemporary. Psalms, motets, sonatas and hymns make up the Vespers, and Gregorian chant is combined with newer forms, creating wonderful contrasts of sound.

The opening Versicle and Response enveloped the audience in layer upon layer of sound from the 14-person orchestra and chorus, and Mr. Thomasí deep knowledge of the work gave him the ability to draw both subtleties and the rich sonorities to bring out the sheer majesty of Monteverdi. The orchestra was divided in half between winds (the cornetti and trombones) on one side, and the strings on the other. The cornetto, a Renaissance instrument long out of use, has a mouthpiece similar to that of a trumpet, but is made of wood and covered with leather. It has a softer sound than the trumpet, and blends beautifully with the human voice. Between the winds and strings were the continuo instruments, the most unusual of which was the theorbo, a large lute with bass strings eight feet long, and organ and harpsichord.

In the Laudate pueri the two soprano soloists, with their pure, clear voices, were echoed by the male sextet. These achingly sweet soprano voices blended beautifully in great ascending and descending suspensions. The Gloria Patri, following the Laudate , quickly changing the mood with a lilting 6/8 dance-like rhythm, finally ended in a long, melismatic Amen. Sometimes the vocalists sang with just the plucked instruments, other times with the entire orchestra. Every now and then the lowest note in the orchestra, played by the great theorbo, could be heard at the end of a section. During the Motet Audi coelum, Mr. Chester demonstrated the beauty and flexibility of his voice with virtuosic ornamentation. He and countertenor Jesse Antin echoed each other throughout the verse.

After intermission the Magnificat completed the program and is the final part of the Vespers, composed of a Magnificat, a Sonata and Hymn. The closing Hymn was full of variety, with interludes where instruments and singers combined in many different tempos and moods. The great Amen at the conclusion of the Vespers had the entire chorus and orchestra in full force, but finally concluded in the most extraordinary diminuendo this reviewer has ever heard: voices and instruments were slowly transported from forte down to complete silence on the last long note. The large audience was transfixed.

After the concert this reviewer talked to a member of the orchestra who mentioned that one of his fellow players was scheduled to perform 23 Monteverdi Vespers during the year. A musician friend is scheduled to play 17. Clearly this is testimony to the popularity of this monumental work.