Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cincinnati Early Music Festival 2017 Wrap-up

A few thoughts at the close of Cincinnati Early Music Festival 2017.

The numbers: 24 different groups, made up of 368 musicians, entertained audiences totaling 1690 people, at 11 venues, in 8 neighborhoods around the city and northern Kentucky.

Range of music played: The oldest piece was performed by Harpers Robin, a Viking-derived Nobilis
Break it down, boys

Humilis from the 1100s (at least). The newest was some music snuck in by
Fleurs de Lys composed  in 1924. Unless you count a couple of outbursts of improvisation, which happened at Harpers Robin and again at Classical Revolution (Chris Wilke and Bill Willets). Then you get a true millennium of music, a full 1000 years.

Collegium Vocale
Most featured composer: This would have to be Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672). This greatest of the pre-Bach Germans was given an airing by the Cathedral Choir during Christ Church Evensong, by the Knox Choir, and by Collegium Vocale. The music was beautiful, a Renaissance-Baroque hybrid that conveyed both the lyrics and the emotions equally well. A favorite moment came at the Evensong when the line “He has scattered the proud” focused on the word “zerstreuet” (scattered). Thrown out asynchronously by the various voices, all those sibilances ricocheted off each other and painted a perfect sound picture of catastrophic scattering.

Jaap ter Linden
Most unexpected appearances by an instrument: This would be the cellos. They were everywhere! Colin Lambert with the Caladrian Ensemble, Jennifer Jill Araya with Fleurs de Lys, Christina Coletta with the Knox Choir, Erik Anderson with the Bach Ensemble, David Myers with Collegium Vocale, and Tom Guth with Collegium Cincinnati, who tackled Bach like a boss. Although unplanned, the cello cohort fit in well with this year’s superstar guest, the magnificent Jaap ter Linden. Along with Catacoustic Consort, he brought the house down with his effortless command of all the tricks up the cello’s sleeve, his entire Bach suite played from memory, his evident delight in playing duets with Annalisa Pappano on viola da gamba, a combo that doesn’t happen every day. Or, in the case of Cincinnati, ever. Cellos rule!

Chris Wilke & Rod Stucky

Performer with the fullest dance card: Chris Wilke, no contest. Over the course of the month, Chris partnered with violinist Jennifer Roig-Francoli, soprano Fotina Naumenko, lutenist Bill Willits, and guitarist Rod Stucky. We are glad to have him in town.

Some favorite moments:

                --The audience hanging over the balcony railings at the Cincinnati Art Museum when Schola Cincinnati wafted into that Renaissance music that the echoey Great Hall loves. Come for the art, stay for the music!

                --The energetic treatment of Passacaglia della Vita by Jackie Stevens and the Shakespeare Band, as she gaily reminded us of our approaching ends:  Bisogna morire!

                --The charming selection Mein Gläubiges Herze from Bach’s Cantata 68. It was lovely, and can I just say how good the Bach Ensemble of St. Thomas sounded this year?

                --The final piece of the final event was the eternally spectacular Pianto della Madonna by Sances, sung by Danielle Adams with Elizabeth Motter, WeiShuan Yu, and Annalisa Pappano. This is exactly the kind of music that early music lovers wish the rest of the world knew about.