musicaintima ensemble

xmusica intima: Radius at the Telus Studio Theatre

Date and Venue April 24 at 8pm & April 25 at 2.30pm, 2015 | Telus Studio Theatre, The Chan Centre

Featured Performers musica intima ensemble continuo Christina Hutten sackbuts Jeremy Berkman, Alex Fisher, Ellen Marple, Nathan Wilkes.

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

The austere Telus Theatre, with a dollop of imagination, might have been a piazza in Venice outside San Marco. Cafe tables, plates of bread and oil and olives, the hint of a rose window as backdrop filled the space while the music of 16th century Italy filled the air all around - all around since the musicians of musica intima threaded a circle through the tables to stand amongst the audience for the first number of their Masque program.

It was a mixed program of Church music, court music and even street music, chiefly by composers who held positions in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and therefore full of famous names.   Both Gabrieli's were of course represented, each by a setting of "Deus, qui beatum Marcum", the collect for St. Mark’s Day.  The first was for a single choir of 7 voices (Andrea) and the other for double choir (Giovanni).  Making good use of the Telus Theatre space, one of the choirs was stationed in an upper balcony.

They used this idea again, but less effectively in my opinion, for madrigals sung from above as if from a musicians’ gallery. This created a distance between performers and audience which diluted the intimacy of two achingly dissonant songs by Monteverdi. They were all though sung with attention to detail and beautiful tone

Tone was thrown to the winds in a comic piece of Carnival music by Adriano Banchieri with its chorus of cat, dog, cow and cuckoo.

Unusually for musica intima, an a cappella group, they were joined by keyboard continuo and a quartet of sackbuts. Sackbuts are the renaissance version of trombones, less brassy than their modern counterpart but still bright and sweet in tone. They add resonance in church music and fun to entertainments. The four skilful players (Jeremy Berkman, Alex Fisher, Ellen Marple and Nathan Wilkes) demonstrated felicitous ornamentation and sensitivity to the singers.

In an evening of many pleasures, Christina Hutten’s harpsichord performance of Christian Erbach’s Toccata primi toni, so full of colour and interest, was one of the best.

Minor quibbles: there were a couple of bloopers in the projected translations and I wasn’t totally convinced by the alleged theme of the programme. Otherwise, a civilized, rewarding evening.

© 2015 Elizabeth Paterson