La Scena Musicale

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Theatre of Early Music’s Glorious Gloria

 By Hannah Rahimi 

As part of the Montreal Bach Festival, a large audience gathered on Sunday afternoon to hear the Theatre of Early Music performing at the majestic Église Saint-Léon de Westmount. The concert opened with the ethereal voice of Daniel Taylor floating over the crowd from the back balcony of the church. He proceeded to lead the TEM choir in a series of moving choral works, beginning with a traditional Basque air, The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came, and ending with John Tavener’s The Lamb, a contemporary work that combines homophonic simplicity with exquisite moments of dissonance.

Montreal-based cellist Matt Haimovitz displayed his tremendous virtuosity, rich tone and enormous musicality in performances of Vivaldi’s Concerto in B minor and Concerto in G major. Although the church’s thundering acoustics swallowed up some of the more intricate passages, Haimovitz and the small TEM orchestra managed to convey Vivaldi’s fire and lyricism in this compelling performance.

Concluding the concert, the orchestra and choir joined together to present a passionate rendition of Vivaldi’s Gloria. Under Taylor’s guidance, the choir expressed the jubilant highs and simmering lows of this stunning religious work, enhanced by the sensitive and spirited playing of the orchestra. Sopranos Agnes Zsigovics and Hélène Brunet enchanted the audience with their beautifully blended duet in Laudamus te. Zsigovics also shone in Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, naturally shaping each phrase with her clear, round voice, accompanied by the elegant, lush playing of oboist Matthew Jennejohn.  

This concert was the perfect antidote to a grey Sunday in November, breathing joyous life into sacred works of music to warm us as winter sets in. The Montreal Bach Festival continues until November 20.

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