The New York Times | 4/14/2017 | Bach’s ‘St. John Passion’

From left, the soprano Megan Chartrand and the flutists David Ross and Immanuel Davis performing Bach’s “St. John Passion” at St. Paul’s Chapel, Trinity Church.

From left, the soprano Megan Chartrand and the flutists David Ross and Immanuel Davis performing Bach’s “St. John Passion” at St. Paul’s Chapel, Trinity Church.

By JAMES R. OESTREICH
APRIL 14, 2017

How passing strange. Typically, in the lead-up to Easter, Bach’s surviving Passions, the “St. John” and “St. Matthew,” each attract a performance or two in New York. But this spring, for whatever reasons, brought five major presentations of the “St. John” and none of the “St. Matthew.” And several new recordings arrived in recent weeks, all of “St. John,” as if to drive the point home.

But what, exactly, is that point? True, the “St. Matthew Passion” — first performed in Leipzig, Germany, in 1727, three years after the “St. John” — is a bigger, more complex work, and harder to present, with its multiple choruses and orchestras. On the other hand, it would seem an easier sell, being more majestic and ideologically trouble free.

Almost inevitably these days, the “St. John” courts controversy, with its bald use of the Gospel of John’s words, harping on “the Jews” as the prime instigators of Jesus’ death. All too vividly, it depicts Jesus facing his accusers, and the Roman prefect Pilate becomes an almost sympathetic figure, parrying with “the high priests and servants,” who shout, “Crucify, crucify!” to a frenzied orchestral backdrop, blood lust almost palpable in the sneering harmonies.

Even for those of us who treasure it, the “St. John,” as Alex Ross wrote recently in The New Yorker, “remains a little frightening.” The American choral master Robert Shaw, a secular humanist who loved the “St. John” ardently and performed it throughout his career, summarized the plight of Bachians in 1995: “Many of us never will cease to be embarrassed by its occasional vehement-to-vicious racial attribution regarding the Crucifixion of Jesus. There can be no doubt that its traditional text has added to the waves of anti-Semitism for generations and centuries since its composition.”

The ensemble Tenet, with Aaron Sheehan at the pulpit, performing Bach’s “St. John Passion” at the German Lutheran Church of St. Paul, in Chelsea.

The ensemble Tenet, with Aaron Sheehan at the pulpit, performing Bach’s “St. John Passion” at the German Lutheran Church of St. Paul, in Chelsea.

As this suggests, and as the musicologist Michael Marissen seconded in a lecture before the vocal group Tenet and the early-instrument band the Sebastians performed the work at the German Lutheran Church of St. Paul in Chelsea on March 25, the “St. John” problem has become ever more troubling in the decades since World War II and the Holocaust. With the horrible potential latent in anti-Semitism ever more apparent, any performance or hearing of this work must be cause for sober reflection, not mere mindless pleasure.

Is the Passion’s savage depiction of the Jews simply the work of a master storyteller? It is surely that, but not simply that. Bach’s own attitude becomes clearer in his music and in the poetry of the choruses and arias with which he surrounds John’s narrative.

An early chorale, for example, “Wer hat dich so geschlagen,” asks of the wounded Jesus, “Who has struck you so?” The second verse answers, “Ich, ich und meine Sünden”: “I” — we all, that is Protestant, Catholic and Jew alike — “I and my sins.”

Here, as Mr. Marissen notes in his book “Bach & God” (2016), “Bach moves the focus away from the perfidy of ‘the Jews’ and onto the sins of Christian believers.” And the work as a whole moves in an epic arc from turmoil to profound fellow-feeling and consolation, from inhumanity for the sake of effect, as it were, to a humanity deeply felt and registered.

The Tenet-Sebastians production was a riveting example, easily the most compelling of the recent spate of New York performances. It was conceived over a year as something of a group effort, led by Jolle Greenleaf, the performance’s artistic director, and Jeffrey Grossman, its music director. The chorus of 12 was deployed in three quartets that moved independently around the altar space, often making close contact with the audience in this intimate setting, singing separately, or combining for full effect.

To make the essential theological point of shared guilt in that crucial chorale, “Wer hat dich so geschlagen,” four singers performed the first, questioning verse in an exquisite pianissimo. Then all three quartets joined in full-throated affirmation in the confessional “I, I and my sins.”

Aaron Sheehan sang the tenor role of the Evangelist beautifully and with just the right drama from the pulpit, and Mischa Bouvier was superb as Jesus, with a warm, full baritone. The other stellar singers included Molly Quinn and Ms. Greenleaf, sopranos, and Sumner Thompson, baritone. Mr. Grossman led the terrific orchestra of 18 from the organ.

Beth Beauchamp

Having worked as a professional musician, a music-educator, and the Executive Director of a number of non-profit arts organizations, Beth has over 10 years of experience in catering to the unique needs of artists. Beth believes that the talent, education, and skill-sets of her clients have inherent worth. As a passionate artist advocate, she aims to help her artists improve the quality of their own lives by encouraging them to honor the value of their own work, and by creating materials which allow them to champion their art with confidence. Equally interested in building community, Beth aims to create a roster of artists who are excited to support and collaborate together. 

Youtube | 8/04/2016 | Monteverdi's Madrigals of War and Love

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MONTEVERDI'S MADRIGALS OF WAR AND LOVE

Claudio Monteverdi's Madrigals of War and Love
7pm, April 16, 2016
New York's Society for Ethical Culture

Jolle Greenleaf, soprano
Molly Quinn, soprano
Reginald Mobley, alto
Aaron Sheehan, tenor
Jason McStoots, tenor
John Taylor Ward, bass

Robert Mealy, violin
Adriane Post, violin
Erin Headley, gamba

 

Doron David Sherwin, cornetto
Kiri Tollaksen, cornetto
Greg Ingles, trombone
Erik Schmalz, trombone
Mack Ramsey, trombone

Paul O'Dette, theorbo
Charlie Weaver, theorbo
Hank Heijink, theorbo
Maria Christina Cleary, harp
Jeffrey Grossman, harpsichord

Jolle Greenleaf, artistic director
Paul O'Dette, guest director

Beth Beauchamp

Having worked as a professional musician, a music-educator, and the Executive Director of a number of non-profit arts organizations, Beth has over 10 years of experience in catering to the unique needs of artists. Beth believes that the talent, education, and skill-sets of her clients have inherent worth. As a passionate artist advocate, she aims to help her artists improve the quality of their own lives by encouraging them to honor the value of their own work, and by creating materials which allow them to champion their art with confidence. Equally interested in building community, Beth aims to create a roster of artists who are excited to support and collaborate together. 

Gramophone | July 2016 | The Secret Lover

Gramophone | July 2016 | The Secret Lover

Founded in 1580 by the Duke of Ferrara, the Concerto delle Donne was an institution that revolutionised women’s role in music-making. For the first time an all-female ensemble had a professional position in secular society and an outlet for their virtuoso talents. On ‘The Secret Lover’, American early music ensemble Tenet pay homage to their musical ancestresses in a programme of music by Strozzi, Kapsberger, Caccini and Rossi.

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TENET | 06/15/2016 | 2016-17 Season Announcement

2016-17 Season Announcement

Beth Beauchamp

Having worked as a professional musician, a music-educator, and the Executive Director of a number of non-profit arts organizations, Beth has over 10 years of experience in catering to the unique needs of artists. Beth believes that the talent, education, and skill-sets of her clients have inherent worth. As a passionate artist advocate, she aims to help her artists improve the quality of their own lives by encouraging them to honor the value of their own work, and by creating materials which allow them to champion their art with confidence. Equally interested in building community, Beth aims to create a roster of artists who are excited to support and collaborate together. 

The New York Times | 4/18/2016 | Madrigals of War and Love

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TENET

By Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

Love and war are the subjects of Monteverdi’s towering eighth book of madrigals, and they can be hard to tell apart. “The enemy, insidious Love, encircles the fortress of my heart,” goes one of the texts, an example of many in this collection of the blurring between “amor” and “guerra.”

The amorous mood won out on Saturday evening at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on the Upper West Side, where the ensembleTenet presented the sweet-natured program “Madrigals of Love and War.” It interspersed a handful of selections from Monteverdi with bits of his opera “Orfeo” and instrumental works by some of his contemporaries, among them obscurities like Bastian Chilese.

Tenet is led by the soprano Jolle Greenleaf, here heated yet graceful in the great “Lamento della ninfa,” but the group was on this occasion joined by a guest music director, the eminent lutenist and scholar Paul O’Dette. He conducted (from the lute) a performance of relaxed gentleness, which occasionally could have benefited from a bit more intensity.

The emphasis here was on pleasing polish, as in the persuasively unified hush of the voices at the start of “Hor che’l ciel e la terra e’l vento tace.” (The singers Molly Quinn, Reginald Mobley, Jason McStoots, Aaron Sheehan and John Taylor Ward, all excellent, joined Ms. Greenleaf in varying combinations.) Among the experienced instrumental ensemble, highlights included Robert Mealy, characteristically firm yet subtle on the violin, and the agile, liquid cornetto playing of Doron David Sherwin. 

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Beth Beauchamp

Having worked as a professional musician, a music-educator, and the Executive Director of a number of non-profit arts organizations, Beth has over 10 years of experience in catering to the unique needs of artists. Beth believes that the talent, education, and skill-sets of her clients have inherent worth. As a passionate artist advocate, she aims to help her artists improve the quality of their own lives by encouraging them to honor the value of their own work, and by creating materials which allow them to champion their art with confidence. Equally interested in building community, Beth aims to create a roster of artists who are excited to support and collaborate together. 

Early Music Review | April 2016 | The Secret Lover

Early Music Review | April 2016 | The Secret Lover

There are 18 items here, nos 1, 4, 7, 9, 14 & 16 being instrumental. It is an excellent anthology, mostly from the first half of the 17th century, though the earliest is Diego Ortiz from 1553, the ground bass surviving well into the 17th century. The music is more-or-less equally divided between the voices, and they sound well. Barbara Strozzi is the outstanding composer, with support from Caccini, d’India, Luigi Rossi and Mazzocchi. Do buy it.

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The Irish Times | 3/23/2016 | The Secret Lover

The Irish Times | 3/23/2016 | The Secret Lover

New York’s Tenet ensemble here celebrates “music by, for and about women” in the context of the concerto delle donne, a virtuosic female vocal trio established by Duke Alfonso II of Ferrara in 1580.

The music of Barbara Strozzi and Francesca Caccini (credited as the first woman to write an opera) here rubs shoulders with the work of their male contemporaries, with the 21st-century compositional voice of Caroline Shaw providing a link across the centuries.

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St. Louis Post Dispatch | 3/16/2016 | New albums by the St. Louis Chamber Chorus, Apollo's Fire and more

St. Louis Post Dispatch | 3/16/2016 | New albums by the St. Louis Chamber Chorus, Apollo's Fire and more

"This album focuses on music of the Concerto delle Donne, a revolutionary (because of their gender) group of female professional musicians who sang and played in the court of the Duke of Ferrara in the late 16th century. Much of the music here is also by women, notably the gifted composer-singer Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677). Along with some instrumental selections, there are love songs, laments and a cheery little number with the refrain, 'Bisogna morire,' 'We all must die.' ..." 

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The New York Times | 12/13/2015 | A Broadened Christmas Repertoire at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

The New York Times | 12/13/2015 | A Broadened Christmas Repertoire at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

By CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM | DEC. 13, 2015

When it comes to festive Christmas dazzle, Handel and Bach have cornered the classical market with performances of their “Messiah” and “Christmas Oratorio” taking up much of the season’s real estate. On Saturday at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, two stellar early-music ensembles, Tenet and the Dark Horse Consort, made a strong case for allowing the glittering and refined Christmas music of Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) into the competition. The concert also counted members of Bach Vespers at Holy Trinity among the excellent performers.

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Secret Lover @ House of the Redeemer | 6/29/2016 | New Gallery!

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TENET's Jolle Greenleaf, Molly Quinn, and Virginia Warnken

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Beth Beauchamp

Having worked as a professional musician, a music-educator, and the Executive Director of a number of non-profit arts organizations, Beth has over 10 years of experience in catering to the unique needs of artists. Beth believes that the talent, education, and skill-sets of her clients have inherent worth. As a passionate artist advocate, she aims to help her artists improve the quality of their own lives by encouraging them to honor the value of their own work, and by creating materials which allow them to champion their art with confidence. Equally interested in building community, Beth aims to create a roster of artists who are excited to support and collaborate together. 

Youtube | 6/20/2015 | Our playlist is up!

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 Hope it brings a bit of joy and peace to everyone out there!

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Beth Beauchamp

Having worked as a professional musician, a music-educator, and the Executive Director of a number of non-profit arts organizations, Beth has over 10 years of experience in catering to the unique needs of artists. Beth believes that the talent, education, and skill-sets of her clients have inherent worth. As a passionate artist advocate, she aims to help her artists improve the quality of their own lives by encouraging them to honor the value of their own work, and by creating materials which allow them to champion their art with confidence. Equally interested in building community, Beth aims to create a roster of artists who are excited to support and collaborate together. 

The Secret Lover | 4/22/2015 | That's a wrap!

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That's a wrap! Recording in the can... go team!

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Beth Beauchamp

Having worked as a professional musician, a music-educator, and the Executive Director of a number of non-profit arts organizations, Beth has over 10 years of experience in catering to the unique needs of artists. Beth believes that the talent, education, and skill-sets of her clients have inherent worth. As a passionate artist advocate, she aims to help her artists improve the quality of their own lives by encouraging them to honor the value of their own work, and by creating materials which allow them to champion their art with confidence. Equally interested in building community, Beth aims to create a roster of artists who are excited to support and collaborate together. 

The New York Times | 4/19/2015 | The Secret Lover

The New York Times | 4/19/2015 | The Secret Lover

'The Secret Lover'

By Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

Constructed in Italian Renaissance style in the early 20th century, the intimate library at the Fabbri Mansion on the Upper East Side, now the House of the Redeemer, was an apt setting for “The Secret Lover,” a charming performance on Saturday by the creative, ambitious early-music group Tenet.

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The New Yorker | 2/9/2015 | Composers and Caravaggios

The New Yorker | 2/9/2015 | Composers and Caravaggios

The highlight of this season’s Grand Tour was a performance by the vocal ensemble TENET, one of the city’s liveliest and busiest early-music groups. The setting was Gallery 621, which features Caravaggio and like-minded artists. The room is dominated by sombre classical and religious scenes: the self-flagellation of St. Dominic, by Tarchiani; the Dormition of the Virgin, by Saraceni; a tense exchange between Sts. Peter and Paul, by Ribera; and, most memorable, Caravaggio’s naturalistic imagining of Peter’s denial of Christ, in which the saint looks befuddled and his accuser triumphant. There are no musical references in this gallery of pictures, at least in its current configuration. (An exhibition in a neighboring gallery, entitled “Painting Music in the Age of Caravaggio,” displays Caravaggio’s mischievous early canvas “The Musicians,” in which a trio of scantily clad neo-Grecian youths tune their instruments and study a score while a Cupid figure busies himself with a bunch of grapes.) Instead, the music of Gallery 621 is largely one of color: the red of Paul’s tunic, in the Ribera, emerges from a dark background like a tone from silence.

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The Boston Globe | 1/14/2015 | Green Mountain Project revisits Monteverdi at St. Cecilia

The Boston Globe | 1/14/2015 | Green Mountain Project revisits Monteverdi at St. Cecilia

By Matthew Guerrieri, BOSTON GLOBE  

Halfway through the Green Mountain Project’s Monday performance of Claudio Monteverdi’s “Vespero della Beata Vergine,” as Jason McStoots and Owen McIntosh virtuosically tripped through the echoing angelic lauds of “Duo seraphim,” Brian Giebler sidled in at mention of the Trinity, and the song coalesced into triadic solidity. It epitomized the music’s palpable architecture. Monteverdi historically straddled a shift in musical thought, from horizontal counterpoint to vertical harmony. One could hear ideas that once would have made Renaissance waves being stacked into pillars and vaults.

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The Boston Music Intelligencer | 1/14/2015 | Monteverdi’s Catholicism Test Gets High Marks

The Boston Music Intelligencer | 1/14/2015 | Monteverdi’s Catholicism Test Gets High Marks

The magnificent Romanesque Revival nave of St. Cecilia Parish in Boston was the venue Monday night for the Vespers of 1610 by Monteverdi. Scott Metcalfe directed 27 of the region’s leading early-music singers and instrumentalists in Tenet/Green Mountain Project’s fourth consecutive performance of a series begun two days earlier at the Church of St-Jean-Baptiste in New York.

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The New York Times | 1/11/2015 | Reweaving a Tapestry From Charpentier’s Threads

The New York Times | 1/11/2015 |  Reweaving a Tapestry From Charpentier’s Threads

The French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier never wrote an elaborate choral work in the manner of Monteverdi’s 90-minute “Vespro della Beata Vergine.” But that has not stopped Scott Metcalfe, the early-music violinist and music director of the Green Mountain Project, from piecing together a Vespers score on Charpentier’s behalf.

The project, sponsored by Tenet, the adventurous and excellent early music vocal ensemble in New York, began in 2010 in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi’s Vespers. Over the years Mr. Metcalfe has also created alternative Baroque Vespers by assembling individual vocal and instrumental pieces by other composers.

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The New York Times | 9/23/2014 | Vocals and Instruments, Weaving a Bach Tapestry

The New York Times | 9/23/2014 | Vocals and Instruments, Weaving a Bach Tapestry

The early-music vocal ensemble Tenet opened its season on Saturday evening at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church with resplendent performances of four Bach motets, conducted by Scott Metcalfe. The group has sung this richly virtuosic choral music in the past, but here, following a practice that scholars believe Bach employed, it joined forces with the period-instrument ensemble the Sebastians, with each instrumentalist doubling one vocal line. A soprano might be twinned with a violin, for instance; a baritone with a bassoon. Some of the tenor parts, with their difficult-to-match range, were doubled by an oboe da caccia, the scimitar-shaped “hunting oboe” of Bach’s time, with its distinct, throaty sound.

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