Magnificat Among The Most Memorable of 2013

December 25, 2013

The Memorable Concerts of 2013

I seem to have come to compiling my review of the year 2013 later than I did last year. This was not a problem of procrastination but of the fact that December turned out to be a very active month this year (like many of the other months of the year). I did not want any candidates to be neglected simply because they took place too late in the month…

December: The recreation of a Venetian Christmas Mass service presented by the San Francisco Early Music Society. This was a stunning performance in which Warren Stewart’s Magnificat ensemble joined forces with the brass musicians of The Whole Noyse. The primary emphasis was on the rich contrapuntal composition (often in large numbers of separate parts) conceived by Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi, both of whom served at St. Mark’s Basilica in the early seventeenth century. Here, again, attention to spatial qualities was paramount, since it was only through such physical cues that such complex counterpoint could be perceived as more than a blur. Stewart thus prepared the concert with impeccable attention to not only the details in the scores but also the question of how those details would register with the attentive listener. I should also observe that, appropriately enough, the performance took place in San Francisco’s own St. Mark’s, even if that happened to be St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Still, this is a setting with impressive acoustics; and, on this particular occasion, it was the site for a “Venetian weekend,” since the previous evening it had hosted the Voices of Music performance of the reconstruction of a Christmas Vespers service with Psalm settings by Alessandro Grandi, who served as vice maestro di cappella under Monteverdi.

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Written by Harvey Malloy
San Francisco Early Music Society