BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- It's not that unusual to hear music by , the chief transitional figure between the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
But outside of a flood of recordings to mark the 400th anniversary of his Vespers of 1610, a complete performance of this work is a rarity. Birmingham listeners heard the 90-minute, 13-movement work, considered the greatest choral masterpiece before Bach, Sunday at . Accomplishing the feat were the 30-plus singers of the , an orchestra of 12 strings, brass and continuo, and vocal soloists, conducted by .MUSIC REVIEW: MONTEVERDI, "VESPERS"Georgia Tech Chamber ChoirJerry Ulrich, conductor
Sunday, April 6, 2014Cathedral Church of the Advent
★★★★☆Except for a harpsichord, portable organ and a lone (early trombone), little about this performance could be deemed historically informed. But given the dearth of specifications given by the composer, any performance is open to interpretation. Of course, by simply following what Monteverdi gave us enough singers to cover 10 vocal parts, antiphonal choirs and seven soloists its grandeur is built in.Ulrich kept the transitions taut psalms, motets and hymns moving without hesitation through its various mood shifts, choral textures, small ensembles and solos. Occasional choral imbalances kept it from sustaining a sublime performance level, but it should be remembered that this is an academic choir performing a demanding and seldom performed masterpiece. It is an adventurous project, and this reading went beyond a mere academic exercise. It captured Monteverdi's eerily ritualistic ambiance through echoed phrases, rhythmic urgency and word painting, its splendor through inspired, at times powerful singing.The soloists, soprano and tenor , each sang confidently and expressively, Yang-Temko offering a sweetly intoned Pulchra es, Shryock and choristers Wesley Shearer and Matthew Daigle forming a striking trio in Duo Seraphim. The occasional positioning of a chorister in back of the choir or in the rear of the sanctuary added space and depth. Advent organist and harpsichordist held up the stalwart continuo and provided several fine solos.A few rough spots surfaced during the 10-member, Atlanta-based orchestra's accompaniment, but they were buoyed by a fine violin duet and bold brass playing. It all came together in a robust rendition of the Sicut era finale, the last of 13 sections of the Magnificat.