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CLASSICAL MUSIC

Michael Stern, above, led the National Orchestral Institute in Mahler's Fifth Symphony. The Cantate Chamber Singers performed
Michael Stern, above, led the National Orchestral Institute in Mahler's Fifth Symphony. The Cantate Chamber Singers performed "A Crown of Stars" by Andrew Earle Simpson, left. David Taylor, right, directed Chantry in the Washington Early Music Festival. (Clarice Smith Center For The Performing Arts)

Soprano Bridgid Eversole sang with intelligence and skill, floating even her highest notes effortlessly. Tenor Alexander Kugler was overmatched, but heartfelt and sensitive. A 12-member orchestra provided enthusiastic support. The raucous concluding "shivaree" was a reminder that, as Chaucer wrote, love conquers all.

-- Mark J. Estren

Washington Early Music Festival

A colorful battery of tenor and bass sackbuts, a theorbo, a portative organ and baroque strings joined with a 15-member chorus Saturday in a perfect place for a concert of "old" music. Poised on the edge of Washington's Chinatown, St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Church -- with its arching Gothic vaulting, baroque pillars and resonant acoustics -- not only served, but heightened, the beauty of the Renaissance and baroque music performed by Chantry and the Orchestra of the 17th Century.

Too often dismissed as austere and expressionless, Renaissance music ranges from solemn sacred motets and Masses to the secular bawdiness of drinking songs. Saturday it was Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's radiant "Pope Marcellus" Mass, which Chantry sang unaccompanied and impelled by an exciting immediacy. Conducted by David Taylor, every movement unfolded with scrupulous attention to the text in a seamlessly woven web of unfolding counterpoint.

Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers of 1641 is another matter -- high baroque drama by the world's first important opera composer. In varied instrumental and vocal combinations and often perilously embellished solos, the performers did best in full ensembles, transmitting the music's passionate intensity forged by Monteverdi's powerful musical inflection of single words.

The concert was part of the Washington Early Music Festival, which continues throughout the month. See http://www.earlymusicdc.org .

-- Cecelia Porter


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