Christmas to Candlemas: Iberia (2012)
Concert 5: Saturday 8 December at 8.00 pm
Xavier College Chapel, Barkers Rd, Kew
Subscription Concert 5
The Portuguese composer Duarte Lobo is a newcomer to Ensemble Gombert’s repertoire. His Christmas responsories were published in his Opuscula of 1602. The remainder of this program is Spanish, featuring two of the three greatest Spanish composers of the 16th century — the third, Victoria, having received a lot of our attention both before and during 2011, the quattrocentenary of his death. We first performed Morales’ Missa Quaeramus cum pastoribus in 2006. A remarkably felicitous work, it returns by popular request.
Cristóbal de Morales Pastores, dicite, quidnam vidistis?
Cristóbal de Morales O magnum mysterium
Cristóbal de Morales Cum natus esset Jesus
Francisco Guerrero Pastores loquebantur
Duarte Lobo Natalitiae Noctis Responsoria
Duarte Lobo Hodie nobus caelorum rex
Duarte Lobo Hodie nobis de caelo
Duarte Lobo Quem vidistis pastores?
Duarte Lobo O magnum mysterium
Duarte Lobo Beata Dei genitrix
Duarte Lobo Sancta et immaculata
Duarte Lobo Beata viscera
Duarte Lobo Verbum caro factus est
Cristóbal de Morales Missa Quaeramus cum pastoribus
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Yi Wen Chin
Tim van Nooten
Wednesday, 12 December 2012, The Age [Melbourne], n.p.
All-comers drawn to season celebrations with Iberian twist
SOMETHING of a contrast in city styles, the Australian Brandenburg Choir and Orchestra from Sydney offered a program with something for everyone on Saturday evening, while Melbourne’s own Ensemble Gombert presented its annual Christmas recital with a focus on Renaissance Spain and Portugal.
For the first time, Paul Dyer brought his all-comers’ seasonal celebration here, using a small group of instrumentalists to support the 30-plus Brandenburg choir. The Brandenburgers centred on variety, their stream of vocal and instrumental groupings in constant flux with just enough solo exposure for Matthew Manchester’s subtle cornetto and the unexpectedly reticent saxophones of Christina Leonard, the complex supported by deft percussion from Jess Ciampa and the lutes of Tommie Andersson and Samantha Cohen.
Leading his singers in a focused 16th century Iberian retrospective, John O’Donnell began with music by Morales: the Mass Quaeramus cum pastoribus interleaved by three motets, including a lengthy retelling of the Magi’s journey to and from Bethlehem. The mass calls for two bass lines and on this night the dynamic output came across as uneven, one individual voice disturbingly prominent towards the end of the night in motets by Duarte Lobo and Guerrero.
The Brandenburgers enjoyed something like relieved acclaim in their later popular items – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing in a barbershop arrangement, the soggy sentiment of The Little Drummer Boy headed by a trio of fresh-voiced sopranos, and a rousingly rapid O Come all ye Faithful. But the most moving passage of play came in an Italian song based on La Carpinese, more suited to Good Friday than this time of year.
With the Gomberts’ Christmas observance, the more numerous the lines, the more satisfying the accomplishment, reaching a particularly high mark during those segments in the lush Lobo Responsories that call for all eight lines to operate simultaneously. This proved most compelling in the Portuguese composer’s setting of the opening to St John’s Gospel where the rich polyphonic texture and declamatory assurance stripped away the tawdry tat that clutters the astonishing lesson behind the Christmas miracle.
Clive O’Connell/Courtesy of The Age