One of the most acoustically and visually glorious places to experience music is the Folger Shakespeare Library. When the music happens to be that of Shakespeare's contemporaries, and the players the members of the Folger Consort, the listener has only to sit back and bask in this synthesis of delectable elements.
"Measure for Measure" is the name of the consort's current series of recitals, which celebrate the upcoming birthday of the Bard by illuminating a great many songs and instrumental pieces written during his life, including some that found their way into his plays. Saturday night's program featured, among other gems, the "Willow Song," sung by Desdemona in "Othello," Thomas Morley's "O Mistress Mine," sung by the Clown in "Twelfth Night," and a host of invigorating and melancholy dances, arias and refrains by English and Italian composers.
The performers -- lutanist Christopher Kendall, Robert Eisenstein on viol and recorder, Scott Reiss on recorder, and vocalist Julianne Baird -- were impeccable. Eisenstein and Kendall played in a style both understated and keen; Reiss' control of a wide variety of recorders was nothing short of mind-boggling. Baird, a luminous-looking woman with an equally luminous voice, sang the English songs with a calm and precision that matched the instruments to perfection, and turned the Italian songs into poetry of the most passionate and lyrical sort.
The program will be repeated tonight at 8.