Friday, February 13, 2009

Hilliard Ensemble - Palestrina & Lassus - 02/12/09

Palestrina: Heu mihi Domine
Lassus: Introit Requiem aeternam + Kyrie
Palestrina: Domine quando veneris
Lassus: Gradual - Si ambulem
Palestrina: Ad Dominum cum tribularer
Lassus: Offertory - Domine Iesu Christe + Sanctus and Benedictus
Palestrina: Miserere mei Deus
Lassus: Agnus Dei + Communion - Lux aeterna
Palestrina: Libera me, Domine
Chant: In paradisum

"Variety is the spice of life" the saying goes, so last night I was set to explore new musical territory with The Hilliard Ensemble. Founded in 1974, this English vocal chamber ensemble has had quite a distinguished career throughout the years and throughout the world despite numerous personnel changes. Being able to sample new fare with experts in the field is not an opportunity to be missed, so I showed up at the Terrace Theater of the Kennedy Center with open ears and open mind.

Since I am a complete ignoramus as far as Renaissance musical traditions are concerned, the names Palestrina and Lassus did not ring a bell, but my friend Michael, whose knowledge equals my cluelessness, assured me they were la creme de la creme of the genre. Even though I have to say that a lot of it sounded similar to my untrained ears, the performance turned out to be quite a compellingly spiritual adventure. The very distinctive baritone and counter-tenor were efficiently backed up by the two tenors, and the wide range of harmonies they masterfully created was definitely attention-grabbing.

As an encore, we got to appreciate another facet of a cappella singing with a modern composition by Piers Hellawell called "Sapphire". The last sound uttered by the ensemble was the deeply resonating word "Beauty", and more than adequately fit the overall impression left by their mind-elevating, seamless concert.

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