'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.
The program explored the “concerto delle donne,” a female singing group in late-16th-century Italy that marked a crucial shift in the gender makeup of professional musicians. With a changing lineup and performances that combined singing and likely some light choreography, they were the Supremes of Renaissance Ferrara, gradually taking over the ducal court’s regular chamber performances of secular madrigals for an exclusive audience.
The music had casually florid, poised performers on Saturday in the sopranos Jolle Greenleaf and Molly Quinn and the mezzo Virginia Warnken, whose voices, delicate individually, rose to more than the sum of their parts in richness and eloquence when combined. Trading off the verses in ‘L’Amante Segreto’ by Barbara Strozzi, a groundbreaking female composer from the tail end of the ‘concerto delle donne’ period, they gave a sense of both this repertory’s restraint and its freedom.
Strozzi was well represented on the program, which also included Francesca Caccini, Luigi Rossi, Sigismondo d’India, Domenico Mazzocchi and Luzzasco Luzzaschi. Caroline Shaw, the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for music, contributed the shining encore, a setting of a 17th-century poem that had Baroque purity and some modern harmonies. The ensemble — Jeffrey Grossman, harpsichord; Joshua Lee, Hank Heijink, Daniel Swenberg, Charles Weaver, strings — played with relaxed command whether accompanying the singers or in some spirited instrumental selections. ZACHARY WOOLFE