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Also of note on the program were Perlo's "All Wrapped Up," which feels like a hug, and Bosma's affecting "In Plaster," set to an introspective poem by Sylvia Plath.
-- Pamela Squires
As a professional-level chamber chorus, the Woodley Ensemble, led by Frank Albinder, fills an important niche in the city's musical life. It can set a performance standard for a whole repertoire of early music, and entice the curious or the wary to join what is already a sizable and avid audience base.
On many of these accounts, the Woodley Ensemble is doing beautifully. Its concert Saturday at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Capitol Hill, guest-conducted by Peter Phillips, featured Palestrina's intricately structured "Missa Repleatur Os Meum" and the motet by Jacquet de Mantua that the Mass parodies (a time-honored Renaissance and baroque practice of borrowing and elaborating). The rest of the program offered rarely performed 16th-century motets that included pairs of settings of the Christmas motet "Quaeramus Cum Pastoribus" by Jean Mouton and Thomas Crequillon, and of the "Pastor Noster" by Josquin des Prez and Jacob Handl.
The chorus handled all of this with exquisite balance and admirable pitch. In the splendid acoustical ambiance of St. Peter's sanctuary, they sounded vibrant and rhythmically exciting, assured and alert.
But there are a few things that their leaders need to pay attention to. Exciting as the sound was, it might have been profoundly more so if it hadn't spent the evening being so loud. Dynamics is an exercise in contrast; without that, there are no polyphonic textures, just complicated masses of sound. There were nearly two hours of densely textured pieces, unrelieved by moments of transparency or of homophonic sonorities. For even the most devout fan of the Renaissance, let alone the early music novice, this was asking a lot.
-- Joan Reinthaler