Apollo’s Fire opens season in brilliant Venetian program

Apollo’s Fire
Jeannette Sorrell, conductor
Apollo’s Singers
Dark Horse Consort

Trinity Cathedral
Cleveland, OH
October 18, 2019

Gabrieli: Canzon in echo à 12, for 3 choirs, Ch. 192
Monteverdi: Cantate Domino à 6, from Motets, Book I
Gabrieli: In Ecclesiis à 14, for 3 choirs, Ch. 78, from Sacrae symphoniae II
Rosenmüller: Sonata No. 12 in D minor
Praetorius: Ach, mein Herre, from Polyhymnia Caduceatrix et Panegyrica
Monteverdi: Chiome d’oro, bel tesoro, from Madrigals, Book 7
Monteverdi: Zefiro torna e di soave accenti, from Madrigals, Book 9
Marini: Sonata in Ecco con tre violini, Op. 8 No. 44
Monteverdi: Duo Seraphim, from Vespers of 1610
Schütz: Jauchzet dem Herren, SWV 100, from Psalmen Davids
Praetorius: Meine Seel Erhebt den Herren, from Polyhymnia Caduceatrix et Panegyrica
Riccio: Canzon a doi soprani in Echo proposta, from Il secondo libro delle Divine Lodi
Gabrieli: Canzon in Echo duodecimi toni, Ch. 180, from Sacrae symphoniae
Monteverdi: Nisi Dominus, Suscepit Israel, and Sicut erat in principiov, from Vespers of 1610

Venice in the Renaissance and Baroque bore witness to an extraordinary flourishing of musical life, the focal point of which was the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica. That venue virtually inspired a whole repertoire of music, tailored to the basilica’s unique acoustics wherein musicians were often dispersed throughout to yield a mystical echo effect. Appropriately styled as “Echoes of Venice”, Apollo’s Fire sought to recreate this body of work in a program curated by musicologist Marica Tacconi, who was on hand for an informative pre-concert lecture. A generous helping of composers who served as the basilica’s maestro di cappella formed the backbone of the program, loosely organized by theme, and was fleshed out with works from a handful of Germans who took clear inspiration from their Venetian counterparts – a testament to the far-reaching influence of this aesthetic.

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Jeanette Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire in “Echoes of Venice”, photos credit Apollo’s Fire

For the weekend’s performances, AF was buttressed by the Boston-based period ensemble Dark Horse Concert, adding to the forces cornetti, sackbuts, and additional strings. The opening selection from the younger Gabrieli was lively and conversant, even if the intonation left something to be desired, reverberating throughout the Trinity Cathedral. Monteverdi’s Cantate Domino à 6 was crisply articulated, and introduced the resonant choir. Another selection from Gabrieli followed, stemming from the extensive Sacrae symphoniae (I was reminded of a Cleveland Orchestra program that touched this repertoire a couple seasons ago). Divided into three “choirs”, namely the instrumentalists and two groups of singers, the antiphonal layering achieved a striking effect.

Johann Rosenmüller was the first voice from the north heard on the program in his Sonata No. 12 in D minor. An ensemble of strings grounded by two theorbos gave genuine feeling to the three brief movements that comprised this doleful lament. Praetorius’ Ach, mein Herre could reasonably be mistook for a Venetian work, save for the language. Amanda Powell was the standout in a trio of sopranos that also included Rebecca Myers and Madeline Apple Healey, handling the intricate writing with aplomb. A pair of Monteverdi madrigals rounded out the first half. Chiome d’oro, bel tesoro was marked the rhythmic snap of the strings countered by the angelic blending of the two sopranos, Powell and colleague Raha Mirzadegan. Zefiro torna e di soave accenti charmed in its dance-inflected rhythms, with conductor Jeanette Sorrell leading from the tambourine.

Marini’s Sonata in Ecco con tre violini made for a striking opening to the second half. Beginning as a fairly standard sonata for a solo violin, the soloist was in due course joined by two further violinists stationed elsewhere around the cathedral. The space itself was thus used musically in this mesmerizing echo effect. Monteverdi’s Duo Seraphim, a gem from the Vespers, called upon three tenors – Jacob Perry, Nathan Hodgson, and Nathan Dougherty. Starting as a quite gorgeous duet, midway through the third joined in evocation of the trinity. Heinrich Schütz has justly been dubbed the “Gabrieli of the north”; choirs were positioned in both the front and back to envelop the audience in the euphony of his psalm setting Jauchzet dem Herren. Praetorius was revisited in Meine Seel Erhebt den Herren, bringing forth the same soprano trio as before, a magnificat fittingly magnificent, and the evening closed in the radiance of four further selection from Monteverdi’s Vespers.

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Tenors Jacob Perry, Nathan Dougherty, and Nathan Hodgson perform Monteverdi’s Duo Seraphim