Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Florilegium Chamber Choir - Gesualdo, Wert, Willaert, Bach, Messiaen & Harvey - 06/02/13

Music Director & Conductor: Nicholas DeMaison
Gesualdo: Beltà poi che t'assenti
Wert: Io non son però morto
Gesualdo: Ancide sol la morte
Willaert: O dolce vita
Gesualdo: Io parto e non più dissi
Gesualdo: Caligaverunt oculi mei
Gesualdo: Illumina faciem tuam
Wert: Ave, dulcissima Maria
Bach: Chorale: Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein/BWV 432
Bach: Fugue: Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit/BWV 668a
(finale from The Art of Fugue, also known as organ prelude BWV 668, arr. DeMaison)
Messiaen: O sacrum convivium!
Harvey: Remember, O Lord
Gesualdo: Tristis est anima mea
Gesualdo: Miserere

After indulging in the refined orchestral music of Classical Vienna performed by the Orchestra of St. Luke at Carnegie Hall on Saturday night, I was more than ready to switch gears and become better acquainted with Gesualdo's œuvre, as well as a few other loosely related choral pieces, on Sunday afternoon in the company of the Florilegium Chamber Choir in the always welcoming Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, conveniently located a few blocks from my apartment. The weather did not turn out so convenient though, so it was in a sweltering hot church that a small assortment of friends and I took our seats for the choir's last performance of the season, which also happened to be their last performance with their current music director and conductor, Nicholas DeMaison.

But no matter how bitter-sweet the occasion was, the singers went on to deliver a send-off that should have made everyone involved proud. As expected, Gesulado's works, whether they were secular or sacred, distinguished themselves with their bold harmonies and extreme emotions. Overflowing with images of sorrow, pain, sin and death, they nevertheless managed to come through as spontaneously engaging and brightly colorful, especially if one did not read the actual texts. The man may have had a few grim idées fixes, but he sure knew how to entertain as well.
Interspersed with those episodes were short works of Italian-flavored early music by Giaches de Wert and Adrian Willaert, followed by the unavoidable John Sebastian Bach, who was present with a chorale and a chorale fugue. Then we fast-forwarded to the 20th century for Olivier Messiaen's exquisitely ethereal "O sacrum convivium!" before moving on to Jonathan Harvey's quietly poignant "Remember O Lord". Two more motets by Gesualdo and a short speech by a member of the choir praising their departing maestro, who by all accounts will be sorely missed, concluded this special performance, before we all finally got out for some well-deserved semi-fresh air.

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