La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Friday Night Shadows and Light With the Theatre of Early Music

By Hannah Rahimi

On November 12, Daniel Taylor and the Theatre of Early Music filled Montreal’s Chapelle Notre-Dame de-Bon-Secours with the sounds of sacred polyphony. Exploring the shadows and light of unaccompanied choral harmonies, Taylor compiled works from some of the best 16th and 17th century composers, including Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Henry Purcell, and the lesser known Manuel Cardoso. With many of his works lost to the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the Portugese Cardoso is a rare gem in the history of choral polyphony, merging the Italian Baroque School with the influence of the great Renaissance composer Palestrina.

While Taylor chose to intersperse various movements of Cardoso’s Requiem with the works of other composers, it would have been a pleasure to hear the Requiem in its entirety to get a fuller sense of Cardoso’s unique compositional voice. In the opening “Introitus,” the choir brought out Cardoso’s six-voiced harmonies with clarity, carefully unfolding his startlingly exquisite dissonances and resolutions. Other highlights of the evening included performances of Byrd’s simple and somber “Ave Verum” and Purcell’s highly chromatic “Hear my prayer,” which ended the concert on a contemplative note. The members of the choir, particularly the strong tenor section, sang with beautifully clear tone throughout the evening, allowing the purity of the lines to emerge without any distracting flourish or ornamentation.

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