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Classical & Jazz magazine

Montiverdi's Vespers

performed by the Harlow Chorus

Rosemary Westwell
localsecrets.com Monday, 29 Nov 2010
  • You would expect music that is four hundred years old to be more limited and challenging to listen to than modern offerings. However, in the hands of conductor Alexander Chaplin, the Harlow Chorus, Charivari Agreable and a group of fine soloists, Monteverdi's Vespers proved to be vibrant, fascinating and uplifting. The supportive audience in Ely Cathedral was justifiably enthralled.

    harlow chotusThe large chorus sang with highly effective and precise changes of dynamics and tempo.

    Charivari Agreable complemented the chorus with authentic, colourful and beautifully executed sounds. Instruments included violins, viola da gambas, cornetti, recorders, sackbuts, chittarone and chamber organ. The sonority, clarity, and agility of these performers enhanced the music considerably, balancing the chorus with contributions that were very much a vital part of the music's fabric.

    The soloists were well chosen. Ruth Jenkins (soprano), Aoife Miskelly (soprano), Leo Tomita (counter-tenor), Thomas Faulkner (tenor), Adam Kowalczyk (tenor), Samuel Furness (bass) and John Herford (bass) filled Ely Cathedral vaults with exquisite lines, their amazing embellishments heightening the emotional impact of Monteverdi's composition.

    Highlights were definitely Psalm 109: Dixit Dominus, motets: Nigra sum, and Audi coelum, sonata: sopra 'Sancta Maria' and the final Magnificat.

    Psalm 109 set the standard for the evening. With tremendous skill the performers produced an exquisite musical fabric that was precisely controlled and amazingly varied in effects. The clarity of the lines and a rare sense of weightlessness produced by the singers were especially noticeable.

    Nigra sum featured a mesmerizing tenor line complemented by very appealing contributions from the chittarone and harmonium especially. Audi coelum was an intriguing movement that included excellent performances by the echoing tenors and effectively restrained interwoven parts in the choir.

    In Sonata: sopra 'Sancta Maria', the special timbre of the sopranos and of the instruments were fully exploited with the brass instruments mastering tricky tongueing with ease.

    The evening closed with a wonderful Magnificat in which beautifully sustained vocal lines interwove with overlapping parts that combined perfectly to produce a unique and exquisite musical texture associated with Monteverdi's style. None of the glorious effects would have been possible without the tremendous control and ability of the performers.

    Forthcoming events include:

    'Carols by Candlelight', Thaxted Church, Saturday 18th December 2010 at 7 pm

    'Visions of Eternity', St. John's Church, Epping, Saturday 12th March 2011 at 730 pm

    'All that Jazz', Hockerill Church, Bishop's Stortford, Saturday 14th May 2011 730 pm

    Elgar 'Dream of Gerontius' Chelmsford Cathedral, 9 July 2011 730 pm

    Contact: Julia Dimon 01277 362440 or email: tickets@harlowchorus.org.uk

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Montiverdi's Vespers Rosemary Westwell