Masses & Madrigals—
Ancient & Modern
November 10, 2012
8:00pm First Christian Church, Bloomington.
Over the ages, Western composers have turned repeatedly to certain musical forms. The most enduring (and challenging) of these forms is the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass. Throughout the ages the Mass text has inspired some of Western civilization’s most profound compositions. Its secular counterpart was the madrigal, or partsong, a form that originated in Florence in the mid-16th century and quickly spread throughout Europe and England, where it influenced and transformed regional variants such as the French chanson, German lied, and English partsong. Much of its great popularity came from the profound and emotional texts of contemporary poets that inspired composers, particularly during the late 16th century when madrigals reached their maturity. Though the madrigal waned in popularity as the Baroque era blossomed, it has returned in recent years to attract contemporary composers, many of whom were drawn to the same great Renaissance poets that inspired the early madrigalists.
Masses & Madrigals—Ancient & Modern, then, is a concert of comparison and contrast. Two Masses anchor the two halves of the concert. The Mass for Four Voices by the English composer William Byrd (1539-1623) is one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance. Its counterpoint is brilliant and clear, its textures mystical and evocative. Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) is one of the most prominent composers of contemporary sacred music. His Missa syllabica is quite different in compositional style from Byrd’s Mass, yet both works are anchored by a deep and profound spiritual conviction and respect for the text.
Over the course of his life, the great Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) published nine books of madrigals. These remarkable volumes show a fascinating evolution from unaccompanied declamatory works found in the early books to a fully-realized concertato style in Book VIII, a style that reflects the use of continuo and the conventions of opera, a form invented by Monteverdi himself in 1607 that rapidly grew in popularity and swept throughout Europe during the 17th century. The contemporary American composer Morton Lauridsen (b. 1943) composed his Madrigali: Six ‘Firesongs’ on Italian Renaissance Poems in 1989. Lauridsen states in his preface that they are derivative from and indebted to to Monteverdi for their style and emotion.
Tickets ($15 general admission; $10 students) can purchased at the door the evening of the concert, or in advance through the Buskirk-Chumley Box Office (www.buskirkchumley.org, 812-323-3020).
Plan to join the Chamber Singers for this fascinating exploration of the sacred and the secular, the old and the new.