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SFCV Review: Magnificat’s Marvelous Magnificat

The following by Anna Carol Dudley was posted at San Francisco Classical Voice. Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco also reviewed the Grace Cathedral performance.

Claudio Monteverdi, already famous as a composer of secular music in the late 16th century, published a Mass and a vesper service in 1610. This year is the occasion for many celebrations of the 400th anniversary of that event. On Sunday afternoon, in Grace Cathedral, Magnificat celebrated. Fielding a team of 10 extraordinary singers, Artistic Director Warren Stewart conducted a splendid performance of the 1610 Vespers, accompanied by four string players, organ and theorbo continuo, and six players of a variety of Renaissance winds: The Whole Noise and guests.

Magnificat in Grace Cathedral

Five psalms were set for chorus, including a lovely double-chorus Nisi Domini (Unless the Lord build the house). Every psalm was bookended by antiphons sung unison by the men, led by celebrant Hugh Davies. Other numbers were for smaller ensembles and soloists.
Sopranos Jennifer Ellis Kampani and Jennifer Paulino sang the parts written for castratos, making nice work of the florid Pulchra es (You are beautiful) from the “Song of Solomon.” Also from the “Song of Solomon” is Nigra sum (I am a black but beautiful daughter), which Monteverdi set for tenor in spite of the text — perhaps preferring the heft of a tenor voice to a soprano sound, or perhaps writing for a particularly gifted tenor. The gifted Paul Elliott invested it with beautiful feeling. He has a masterful way with florid outbursts that are not simply vocal display but have expressive purpose.

Read the entire review

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