Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi

Love, Loss, and Lamentation
The Madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi

Fri, Mar 12, 2010, 8pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco

California Bach Society

Paul Flight, Artistic Director
Brian Thorsett, tenor
John Gale, tenor
Nicole Schuetz, soprano
Gwen Adams, harpsichord
Farley Pearce, cello

From Madrigals, Book 3 (1592) and Book 4 (1603)
O primavera gioventù dell'anno
Sfogava con le stelle
Ah, dolente partita
A un giro sol de' begl'occhi lucenti
Quel augellin che canta

From Madrigals, Book 6 (1614)
Sestina: Lagrime d'amante al sepolcro dell'amata

From Madrigals, Book 6
Lamento d'Arianna

Scherzi Musicali (1632)
Eri già tutta mia

Quarto scherzo delle ariose vaghezze (1624)
Sì dolce è 'l tormento

From Madrigals, Book 7 (1619)
Interrotte speranze
Ballo: Tirsi e Clori

Intermission at St. Mark's
I was drawn to this California Bach Society concert by the chance to hear Monteverdi's beautiful & pained songs about love. A chorus of 25, accompanied discretely by a small organ, was led by Artistic Director Paul Flight. They make a smooth, blended sound with no rough edges. Men & women are intermingled, so it is not easy to distinguish the parts spatially. The final chords of the songs were always in tune & balanced. Chorus members often bobbed up & down in a swaying rhythym. Given the ardent subject matter, the interpretations were a bit measured, though the chorus made a nice forte at the climax of the Lamento d'Arianna.

Tenor Brian Thorsett appeared in the 2nd half & sang 2 solo songs accompanied by harpsichord & cello. Before singing Eri già tutta mia, Mr. Thorsett told us that a stanza had been left out of our programs, & he kindly provided a translation of the missing text. His operatic solo voice immediately filled the space & sounded louder than the chorus of 25. He was expressively very free & urgent. John Gale joined him for the tenor duet Sì dolce è 'l tormento. The song has some tense dissonances & well illustrates how near to love are despair & hatred. Mr. Gale's biography describes him as a baritone, & he certainly has the tall, slim stature associated with that voice type, yet he was definitely singing tenor all night. Mr. Flight was back with the chorus for the closing Tirsi & Clori Ballo. Rather than a whirling dance, there was a feeling of rocking back & forth. I liked their grand pause near the end.

Audience attendance seemed a bit low. There were perhaps 80 people sitting downstairs. After the intermission I went up to the balcony where just 4 other people had spread themselves out. They included a young couple who snuggled in a pew as if watching TV on the couch in their living room.

No comments: