“Tom Zajac’s generosity of spirit and many contributions to early music have influenced performers and delighted audiences near and far. Now it’s our turn to give back,” according to the program book. Generous BEMF players gathered at the First Lutheran Church, Boston Monday to do just that in support of the ill multi-instrumentalist in an inspiring benefit concert entitled Battaglia d’Amor.
Since so many top-tier musicians came together to give freely and happily for one of their own, it was inevitable that some truly marvelous performances would ensue. Wayne Hankin astonished us with stunning musicianship by playing a version of Moinot D’arras’s Ce Fut en Mai on a tiny, four-holed clay pipe, resulting in something between virtuoso extemporization and birdsong. John Tyson’s expressively detailed recorder riffs on da Rore’s Signor mio caro, accompanied by his Renaissonics compatriot Miyuki Tsurutani on harpsichord, were an emotionally charged highlight of the evening, after which they were joined by members of Seven Times Salt for some beautifully colored improvisations on works by de Sermisy and Praetorius. Anne Azéma led singers from the Boston Camerata in sonically brilliant performances of 12th– and 13th-century French songs. This was followed by Exultemus’s warm, smile-inducing renditions of two of the Cantigas de Santa Maria. Toward the end of the evening, tenor Owen McIntosh and two other Blue Heron musicians gave a deep and sly delivery of Jacob Senleches’s quirky En attendant, Esperance conforte.
Indeed, all the performances were remarkable. Singers from Tapestry reveled in the beautifully exposed textures of a Notre Dame conductus and a two-part song by Ciconia. Members of Meravelha delivered ardent interpretations of motets from the Montpellier Codex. Two soulful and intimately rich works from the Turkish repertoire were offered by musicians of the Dünya collective. Na’ama Lion, Doug Freundlich, and Frances Conover Fitch indulged in some delightful diminutions on Jeune fillette; and the Arcadia Viols lent their rich, steely sound to two contrapuncti from Bach’s Kunst der Fuge. Even the church organ was put into action by Balint Karosi’s playing of Komm, heiliger Geist by Franz Tunder. Bookending it all were strong performances of wind-consort works, including the Boston Shawm and Sackbut Ensemble opening the concert by sounding L’homme armé, and Piffaro closing with a spirited, optimistic Spanish dance.
As Dan Meyers said in his heartfelt introduction, Battaglia d’Amor borrowed from the title of a work by Orazio Vecchi, means “Battle of Love.” In Tom Zajac’s battle with illness, it is clear that he is loved and supported by a large and grateful community of musicians and listeners. We at the Boston Musical Intelligencer join those voices in wishing him a speedy and full recovery.