Wednesday, August 27, 2014

He Who Sings, Prays Twice

Catacoustic Consort begins its fourteenth season September 21 by reaching into one of the most rarely-visited corners of the German Baroque and finding treasure within. Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima—it sounds impenetrable, but its rewards are profound.

L'abbaye de Villers-la-Ville
Arnulf of Leuven died in 1250, in what is today French-speaking Belgium.  He was a poet, and probably the author of “Membra Jesu Nostri,” or “The Limbs of our Jesus,” a meditation on the wounds of the crucified Christ.  We can’t know for certain; when his abbey at Villers-la-Ville was ransacked during the French Revolution, the original manuscripts were lost.  Another piece of our heritage destroyed.

Dieterich Buxtehude was born around 1638 in what was then Denmark.  His career as music director, organist, and composer unfolded in L├╝beck, Germany.  His students included Johann Pachelbel, and his friends included Handel and Bach, who revered him above all his predecessors.  But at his death most of his music was unpublished; some was collected and preserved by a friend in Sweden, but some has been lost forever.  Another piece of our heritage allowed to slip away.

In 1680, Buxtehude set Arnulf’s poems to music, a cycle of seven cantatas which come together in what is often called the first Lutheran oratorio.  The piece is eclectic, following rigid forms one minute, utterly disregarding them the next.  Five voices, and sometimes three, and sometimes one, are united with two high melody instruments, except in Part 4 when we have an entire viol consort.  Two sopranos, countertenor, tenor, and baritone interweave through text both hopeful and despairing. There’s a reason this piece is so rarely staged today:  the requirements of the ensemble are beyond what most organizations can muster.  

Pardessus de viole
In Catacoustic’s performance, we will have the extraordinary opportunity to hear two pardessus, the rarest of viols. Catacoustic’s Artistic Director Annalisa Pappano is one of the most renowned performers on this instrument working today, along with Joanna Blendulf of Madison, Alabama.  (These partners in pardessus have recently released a CD of exquisite French music, available for purchase at  Joining them will be internationally known theorbist Daniel Swenberg, Michael Unger on chamber organ, and gambists David Ellis, Cole Guillien, and Stephen Goist (these last two being this year’s Catacoustic Early Music Scholarship recipients!)  The vocal ensemble will include the welcome return to Cincinnati of soprano Youngmi Kim, soprano Melissa Harvey, tenor Brian Thorsett, baritone Aaron Cain, and countertenor Michael Maniaci, fresh from his Cincinnati Opera debut in La Calisto

The piece begins with a verse from the book of Nahum:  Behold, upon the mountains the feet of one bringing good news and proclaiming peace.  What could be more welcome in these uncertain times?  Come and enjoy this once in a lifetime performance. 

Tickets are available at or at the door.  $25, students $10.

Or order season tickets!  Five tickets, which can be used at any concert in our upcoming season, for $100, a 20% discount!  Available until September 21. 

3:00pm Sunday, September 21, 2014
Church of the Advent, 2366 Kemper Lane, Walnut Hills (Cincinnati), OH 45206
There is ample street parking available, as well as available parking in the US Post Office lot just south of the church on Kemper.