Review: Dutch Renaissance Masters – 24 March

The Renaissance Choir are a very fine group of singers and they were in particularly good form for Saturday’s concert in Petersfield.

Their programme, featuring both sacred and secular music by Dutch Renaissance masters, was varied and interesting.

They began, unexpectedly, by singing from the back of the church, producing a haunting effect as the men sang a sustained pedal note, over which sopranos and altos sang plainsong like melodies. Later there was music ‘in the round’ as the singers encircled the audience, demonstrating the choir’s keen ear for ensemble and Peter Gambie’s clear direction.

Orlando di Lasso’s eight-part ‘Missa Osculetur me’ was the concert’s most substantial work, and sung with great verve and style. Only at around ‘et incarnatus, of the Credo’, was there a brief loss of momentum. In this work, and elsewhere, the sopranos coped well with a frequently high lying vocal line, producing a consistently blended and effortless sound.

Particularly memorable were the hushed opening to Lasso’s ‘Tristis est anima’, the unexpectedly choreographed and rhythmic ‘Vecchie letrose’ by Willaert, and a solo quartet singing Arcadelt’s ‘Il bianco e dolce cigno’.

The Monington Duo, Karen Kingsley (piano) and Robert Blanken (clarinet) provided stylish instrumental interludes.  I especially enjoyed Boer’s ‘Nocturne’, its melismatic clarinet line providing a well-judged segue from the preceding Renaissance polyphony.

Pictured is “Netherlandish Proverbs”, a 1559 oil-on-oak-panel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which found its way into the programme.

It depicts a scene in which humans and, to a lesser extent, animals and objects, offer literal illustrations of Dutch language proverbs and idioms. Running themes in Bruegel’s paintings are the absurdity, wickedness and foolishness of humans. See which includes a video explaining the 112 proverbs.

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