|Early Music by Candlelight in Midtown|
|By Allan Kozinn
The New York Times
January 25, 2010
"Emilio de’ Cavalieri, though hardly known today, was a friendly competitor of the Florentine Camerata, the group of musicians and theorists whose ideas about text setting and drama led to the creation of opera around 1600. The Camerata’s style came to represent early Baroque vocal music as we know it. But Cavalieri’s music offers a fascinating glimpse of an alternative approach, and the performance of his “Lamentations of Jeremiah” by the French early-music ensemble Le Poème Harmonique at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin near Times Square on Saturday evening captured his distinct, sometimes exotic accent.
Cavalieri’s score, rooted in Renaissance polyphony, draws lightly on plainsong (though chantlike passages are sometimes harmonized) and embraces solo, duet and trio writing packed with dramatic effects and florid ornamentation. Like the Camerata composers, Cavalieri believed that music was the servant of the text. But his approach was often more episodic than theirs: individual lines are typically set for their specific content, rather than as verses set to the same music.
Le Poème Harmonique’s five singers produced beautifully balanced sound, but the clear standout was Claire Lefilliâtre, who brought a virtuosic flair to the soaring, ambitiously ornamented soprano line. Vincent Dumestre, the ensemble’s music director, led his singers and a viol consort with organ and theorbo in a gripping, beautifully shaped account.
The performance, part of the Miller Theater’s early-music series, was presented as a Tenebrae service, with lighting (mostly by candle) that diminished gradually until the final verses, which were performed in darkness. It was an effective approach that drew you increasingly into the music as the light faded."
Photo of Claire Lefilliâtre by Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times.