Last night’s performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 capped off a spectacular day and was for me the perfect end of the Boston Early Music Festival. (The Festival does not end until Sunday but it is the end for me because I am traveling to Germany today.)
There were just 10 singers (of which there were only 3 women and 7 men, meaning there was only one on a part) and 11 instrumentalists, many of whom had played or sung in all of the opera performances this week. Can you imagine how much work (and money!) has gone into this week’s extravaganza? There were several familiar names in the program, Robert Mealy, and Julie Andrijeski, violinists (who were in Honolulu this past spring with Quicksilver), and Alexandra Opsahl, cornetto (who played in our Monteverdi Vespers in 2010). At one point early in the program, a string broke on Julie’s violin and she disappeared backstage for awhile.
Stephen Stubbs, directed the orchestra and chorus, but then walked over to join the orchestra to play theorbo in the solo movements. His lively tempos were faster than Carl Crosier’s in the Honolulu performance in 2010, but the orchestra and singers were clearly up to the task. As there was only one singer per part, there was no room for error. Stubbs did not use a baton yet the entrances and cutoffs were very clean and not ragged.
What was exceptionally beautiful for me was the unison singing of the chant by the three women — all of whom had solo voices, but came together to sing the “Sancta Maria, Ora pro nobis” and sounded as one voice. It was absolutely gorgeous! I wonder if they are going to make a recording — we did see professional video cameras at this performance as well as at the operas.
This is the first time that I have heard the Vespers in a concert rather than a church setting, and was my only tiny disappointment. Somehow the work loses a little of its spiritual quality when done in a concert setting. I can never forget that in the Honolulu performance Carl Crosier had interpolated all the Gregorian chants before each movement, and those unison voices reverberating and bouncing off the cathedral walls made the work much more of a religious experience. However, don’t get me wrong — this performance was certainly superb.
The day started out with a meeting with Ian Capps, Jeanette Johnson, myself and Dana Marsh (who is also staying with Edith Ho) regarding the upcoming Early Music Hawaii concert in September. At my suggestion, Dana will be coming to Hawaii to conduct a program of early German baroque polychoral music. Dana was appointed visiting faculty at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music’s Early Music Institute last April 2014 which you can read about by clicking here.
I next met Vreni Griffith for lunch at Thai Basil before walking over to the First Lutheran Church to hear John Scott‘s recital of music by Scheidemann, Scheidt, Praetorius, Schilt and Buxtehude — exactly the same period of music which the Early Music Hawaii will cover in their September concert— and I came listening for ideas of what to play as organ music on that program. Luckily I found several possibilities, and I really enjoyed John Scott’s colorful registrations and many echo effects in this music. He really exploited the tonal resources of this instrument.
At 5:00 pm we walked over to Jordan Hall to hear a program called “Three, Four and Twenty Lutes,” and it was absolutely amazing to see that many lutes in so many sizes on stage. Directed by Paul O’Dette, he really showed his virtuosity on the obbligato parts; and of course, Stephen Stubbs played lute and theorbo in the concert also — both of them then performed in the Monteverdi Vespers just an hour later.
See, I told you they must be super-human!
Even the singers played lutes!