With a concert of carefully chosen music that relied heavily on the works of Claudio Monteverdi, Gregory A. Glenn presented a program Sunday evening that showcased the rich and magnificent musical tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.
Glenn is the director of both the cathedral choir, consisting of adult singers, and the choristers, made up of the students enrolled in the Madeleine Choir School. Both are mixed choirs, and Glenn has managed to achieve a wonderful blend of these diverse voices.Singing and intonation were impeccable. Phrasing was clear, distinct and precise, so that the different melodic lines of the works were brought out with a clarity that made this music shine.
An interesting fact about the evening's program is that each of the composers represented at this concert (Monteverdi, Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, Giovanni Bassano and Antonio Lotti) were music directors at one time or another at the Cathedral of St. Mark in Venice.
The evening began with two works by Monteverdi, performed by both choirs: "Cantate Domino" and the complete "Messa a 4 voci." The singers were accompanied by basso continuo (cello and organ), as was the custom when this music was written (around 1600). Glenn kept the music flowing, never allowing it to drag, and making it sound exciting.
Two other works by Monteverdi, the most significant composer of the transition period between Renaissance and Baroque, were also performed: two selections from "Sacrae cantiunculae," sung by the choristers, and "Adoramus te," performed by the adult choir.
The choristers' angelic voices were resplendent. Their intonation was flawless, and the purity of their sound was a joy to hear. Glenn ought to be extremely proud of these wonderful young singers.
With the "Adoramus te" Glenn also exploited the spatial possibilities in the cathedral, having the singers perform this work, to great effect, behind the screen that separates the front and the back of the altar area.
The Cathedral Brass Ensemble also performed at Sunday evening's concert. One of the three works they performed was the famous "Sonata pian' e forte" by Gabrieli. This work is one of the earliest examples in which a composer marks dynamics, indicating whether the music is to be performed softly (piano) or loudly (forte), in the score.
The musicians were positioned in the organ loft and were accompanied by the cathedral's majestic organ. The music resonated to the upper reaches of the beautifully adorned vaulted ceiling. This was a dramatic and totally effective performance of this incredible work.
The final selection of the evening, "Jubilate Deo" by Gabrieli, combined all the musical forces in a triumphant ending to a magnificent concert.