Italian ensemble Micrologus, presented as part of the Boston Early Music Festival, joined guest lutenist Crawford Young Wednesday afternoon, June 10, at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, in a varied and colorful program of 14th-century secular music that included songs by Franco-Flemish composers active in Italy along with home-grown songs and dances.
Micrologus showed its virtuosic improvisatory skills in varied and highly colorful renditions of the Italian dance tunes. Colorful variety seems to work less well, however, for 14th-century polyphonic songs in the courtly tradition. Since performance indications are notoriously lacking in late medieval sources, most of our knowledge of performance practice comes from surviving pictorial representations that can be misleading. Varying the instrumentation with each stanza of a single rondeau, as in “Amours, amours” by the Flemish composer Hayne van Ghizeghem, distracted attention from the inherent tension of the rondeau form.
If their search for variety sometimes seemed to overreach, we were never bored and often captivated. The ensemble appears again on Friday night, June 12, 2009 at 11 pm at Emmanuel Church in a program of fourteenth-century Italian songs and dances. [Click title for full review.]
Editor’s Note: The article which follows, from a Harvard Musical Association Bulletin of April, 1946 should be of interest to votaries of the Boston Early Music Festival. If readers know the whereabouts of the cited instruments and collections please respond by blogging.It appears, from research by the writer, that there was only one harpsichord in Boston in 1885 in playable condition. It was the property of Mr. Morris Steinert, founder of the house of M. Steinert and Sons. Mr. B. J. Lang, who did much for enlarging the horizon of music in Boston, organized a festival for the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Bach, born March 21, 1685. In Bach’s “Coffee Cantata” there is the need of a harpsichord, and Mr. Steinert’s instrument was played by Mr. Lang. This was probably the first time for a period of sixty years that a harpsichord had been used in a public concert in Boston.It is interesting to know how little the compilers of the Comprehensive Dictionary, published in 1871, knew relative to the harpsichord. They give the meaning of the word harpsichord: “A keyed instrument, or harp, strung with wire.” That of the virginal is worse: “A musical instrument.” These definitions show the lack of knowledge relative to the instruments because of their rarity. In 1884 there was probably only one harpsichord in the United States in playable condition, and only one player who knew how to use it properly relative to tone colors and the proper touch for the keys and that was Mr. Morris Steinert. At this time of writing (1946), there are fourteen professional harpsichordists in the United States. There is also a maker of harpsichords whose instruments are as splendid in qualities of tone as the best instruments made by the famous makers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and their volume is considerably larger, a virtue needed in these years of large halls.
In Nicholas Kitchen’s arrangement for string quartet of the Bach Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, the quintessential organ work, Cellist Yeeson Kim instantly set the right mood as she played the passacaglia theme with dynamic shadings no organist could summon from mere pipes. My only regret was the omission of a cadenza near the end of the Bach fugue; this has become somewhat of a custom among organists, and I was curious about what these splendid musicians might have improvised or even composed for that dramatic fermata.
Quartet No. 3 of Lera Auerbach, a Russian composer who was in the audience, combines a hint of tonality with sharp rhythm, and varied gestural color, to outstanding effect. The last two movements included a brief chorale-like section, and a conclusion which descended ineffably into deep introspection.
Brahms’ introspective, late (1890) Op 115 Quintet, with clarinetist Richard Stolzman joining the Borromeo players received a world-class performance from these splendid musicians. [Click title for full review.]
A rousing event of this year’s concert season was the re-enactment at the Methuen Memorial Music Hall on May 10 of a major musical and social event in 19th-century Boston – the November 3, 1863 inauguration of the great organ built in Germany by Walcker Orgelbau for the Boston Music Hall on lower Washington Street (now the Orpheum Theater). The organ was rededicated at Methuen Memorial Music Hall (built as Serlo Hall in 1909). Its centennial celebration will take place in September.
see http://www.mmmh.org [click title for full review]