Sunday, 2 August 2015

Assured and expressive

From Early Music Review, June 2015

"The concert of Sacred Music of the Italian Baroque given by Cambridge Renaissance Voices attracted a large audience to St Cross Church in Winchester, a fine Norman building with an excellent acoustic for choral singing in the beautiful setting of the Hospital of St Cross...

"... Soprano soloist Kate Semmens' voice filled the church and her delivery of ornaments and virtuoso passages in [Monteverdi's] Laudate Dominum was impressive. Kate was joined by soprano Caroline Preston Bell from the choir for Pulchra Es from the 1610 Vespers. Their voices blended well, and with the continuo provided by Lynda Sayce (theorbo) alone, the three gave a memorable performance of this now well known duet...

"...The audience was treated to an assured and expressive performance of Lotti's Crucifixus a 8. The eight successive entries at the start achieved a controlled crescendo and the repeated quavers on crucifixus etiam pro nobis continued to build the tension towards the climax on passus et sepultus est and the suspensions descending to the peaceful concluding phrase. The singers showed understanding and passion in their performance of this much loved work, producing their best singing of the evening.

"Giacomo Carissimi's Jephte is a lovely miniature oratorio, eminently suitable for a chamber choir and continuo... Kate Semmens (Filia) gave an accomplished performance of her contrasting arias, the first sung when rejoicing in being the first to greet her father (Jephte) on his triumphant return from battle and the second heart-rending aria when bewailing her virginity and impending fate. The two sopranos providing the offstage echo of Filia's aria did this very well. Other solos were ably sung by members of the choir. Jephte in particular was expressive and confident in conveying the sadness of his tragic dilemma. The main chorus was assured and agile both in the battle scene and when rejoicing in victory. The final chorus of this oratorio must surely be amongst the most achingly beautiful music in the choral repertoire. Listening, in the fading light of St Cross Church, to the expressively sing descending phrases and suspensions conveying the lamenting of the children of Israel for Jepthe's daughter, was a very moving experience for the appreciative audience."

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