Church of St Jean Baptiste, Lexington and 76th Street, New York; January 3, 2019—Tenet’s Green Mountain Project is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and as usual, and gratefully, Monteverdi’s great Vespers of 1610 is central to their programming. Their approach to the work always has been devotional rather than celebratory, but this hardly means the reading lacks drama. And this year, musical director Scott Metcalfe has limited his vocal forces to one voice to a part (with some back-up from a fine group of sopranos and mezzos called Chant Schola in the more vastly scored pieces). Fans of great waves of sound may have been disappointed, but I must admit, to use a familiar metaphor, whereas in grander performances with larger forces, I felt in a vast, beautiful forest, here, suddenly, I was appreciating the individual trees as well. Moments of inaccurate ensemble and wavering pitch can disappear in a musical forest; happily, at the January 3rd performance at St Jean Baptiste Church in Manhattan, each tree was healthy, handsome, and could stand on its own.
The Deus in adjutorium had its effect as a big-boned, fervent plea, and in the Dixit Dominus Monteverdi shows almost his whole hand—dueling choirs, solos, simple monody out of which great elaboration blossoms. Tenor soloist Aaron Sheehan sings the Nigra sum (from the Song of Songs) with pure tone from the low note that opens the motet (on the word “nigra”=”black”) through the rising scale of the word “surge”, a call, yes, for the speaker to rise up. Sopranos Jolle Greenleaf and Molly Quinn sang the duet Pulchra es smoothly, with straight, exquisite, vibrato-free tone; watching them collaborate vocally proved as stunning as hearing them.
The slimmed down Laetatus sum featured two each of soprano and tenor, one alto and bass, with just three theorbos and organ; being able to spot and analyze the give-and-take from such a small group proved an education in how Monteverdi tosses vocal lines from one group to another. In Duo seraphim, scored for three tenors, two angelic voices cry out; when the Trinity is invoked a third joins in precise imitation. The effects are playful, dramatic, and always surprising to the ear, introducing dissonances, soon resolved, that startle and entertain. Sheehan, Jason McStoots, and James Reese were the perfectly tuned tenors, down to the most filigreed coloratura and the bizarre trills on one note that are favored by the composer.
If the cry of “omnes” late in the Audi coelum seemed a bit light, the call from authoritative bass Sumner Thompson and the response, from the rear of the church from the beautiful tenor sound of McStoots could not have been more effective. The sheer variety of sounds and forms in the Vespers is staggering, and before each psalm Metcalfe added a brief Antiphon (plainchant) for the First Vespers of the Feast of the Purification which falls on February 2. The women who performed the antiphons moved invisibly to different parts of the church; the listener was acoustically surprised each time they sang.
Preferring slowish tempos, Metcalfe emphasized the pious; nonetheless, he invited elaborate ornamentation from singers as well as instrumentalists, even the cornettos and sackbuts found places to improvise. The sheer transparency of the polyphony made one sit up as rarely happens in bigger-boned readings; audience members–a Vespers-loyal crowd–mouthed along with certain lines of text, even in the most complex parts. Enlightening and entertaining at once.
Every year, TENET—a group of singers who apply matching passion and precision to early repertoire—performs Monteverdi’s sublime Vespers, a watershed in sacred and dramatic music in which erotic yearning, divine rage, and transcendental wonder are revealed as parts of the same whole. It’s a work that bears repeating, whether or not the listener shares its creator’s beliefs. TENET gives two performances, with a pair of enticing concerts in between at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church: a program of rarely heard music written by (and for) Italian nuns and a selection of sixteenth-century Spanish songs and dances, performed by the vocal ensemble Blue Heron and the sackbuts and cornettos of the Dark Horse Consort.
Greenleaf and Quinn, with their sprightly demeanors and ripe, pure vocal qualities, could certainly be the frontwomen for any bar band you like. They dived right in with two duos from Monteverdi’s Seventh Book of Madrigals, their voices intertwining like honeysuckle vines as they traded melodic phrases or conjoined in sumptuous counterpoint.Read More
Thank you, The New York Times, for this wonderful mention in your fall preview!
“GREEN MOUNTAIN PROJECT This festival is the annual centerpiece of the acute ensemble that is now known, in its 10th year, as Tenet Vocal Artists. With the groups Dark Horse Consort and Blue Heron, it includes Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, music by women of the Italian Baroque and a program from 16th-century Spain. (Tenet, directed by Jolle Greenleaf will also, with the Sebastians, perform “Messiah” in December and Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” in March.) Jan. 3-6, tenet.nyc.”
"Amid the raging anniversaries of Leonard Bernstein and Claude Debussy, there’s one that the excellent early-music ensemble Tenet is not going to let slip by: Giovanni Rovetta (c. 1595/97–1668), who died 350 years ago this year. He was a Monteverdi-era composer of mainly sacred music who spent his life performing multiple musical duties at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. That fact alone means that the music is going have all manner of antiphonal effects (St. Mark’s is that kind of building) and much instrumental virtuosity. Added to that is Rovetta’s unusual gift for melody. Tenet’s concert is Sept. 28 at Church of St. Joseph (371 6th Ave.)."
Thank you, WQXR, for including our series opener (celebrating our 10th anniversary) on your "must-see" list for September! It's an honor to be mentioned!
Tenet: something out of this world
published on March 10, 2018
By Jaime Torres Torres
For National Foundation for Popular Culture
The esoteric and sublime; the love that liberates and the love that condemns; the divine contemplation; the elevation of the soul and the emancipation of the spirit are synthesized in a perfect way in the music of the quintet from Tenet, the attraction of the Casals Festival on the night of last Thursday, March 8, International Women's Day.
The privileged voices of the sopranos Molly Quinn and Jolle Greenleaf addressed a repertoire that spans from the Middle Ages to the present day. (Photo Jaime Torres Torres for National Foundation for Popular Culture)
Art of the Middle Ages, dating back to the sixteenth century, in a very high concert and, for most of the program, caressing and tender baroque beauty.
The harpsichord (Jeffrey Grossman), the viola da gamba (Lisa Terry) and the theorbo (a large lute played by Hank Heijink) accompanied the lyrical singers Molly Quinn and Jolle Greenleaf during a non-intermediate program, focused on ancient music , in its natural, pure, pristine and virginal state.
These artists, of international fame, some Grammy winners and applauded at the Carnegie Hall and the most prestigious concert halls in the world, evoked the muse and wit of Italian composers of the XVI and XVII centuries, such as Johannes Kapsberger, Tarquinio Merula, Claudio Monteverdi, Martino Pesenti, Richardo Rogniono, Luigi Rossi, Michelangelo Rossi and others whose works Tenet interprets in the recording and recitals of "El amante secreto".
The texts, interpreted in Italian, were within the reach of average comprehension, thanks to the free translations into Spanish included in the excellent hand program of the Casals Festival 2018.
The show began with "The Three Graces" (The Three Graces and Venus), resulting in a very dramatic clamor for the sub work "Regresar, besos amados" by Monteverdi. The text in Spanish is:
"Come back, beloved kisses
to give me back
my kisses life that my hungry heart thanks.
Sweet bitterness that makes me languish
kisses of nectar and poison.
Appease my intense desire
kisses in whose sweetness I
also find sighs ".
With the exception of the madrigals or sacred works in which the combination of harpsichord, viola da gamba and tiorda almost propitiate touching the Divinity, the program stands out in the melancholy of the lover who goes out of his way for unrequited love.
Jeffrey Grossman in the harpsichord celebrated the brilliant presentation of the Tenet set at the Festival. (Photo Jaime Torres Torres for National Foundation for Popular Culture)
The musical experience, too, is extraordinary by transcriptions of virginal annotations, conceived outside the avatars of subjectivity.
In "Ardo, but I do not dare", "My thoughts struggle" "Heraclitus in love" and others it is a delight to listen to the duets, melodies and lines in counterpoints of the sopranos Quinn and Greenleaf.
I must confess that in little more than 30 years of coverage of artistic and musical events in the Puerto Rican Nation, I was never part of a musical proposal so genuine and rewarding.
Tenet is something out of this world.
Sounds of the Middle Ages perpetuated from the pentagram beyond the calendars, with all the luggage of spirits that vibrate in time and transcend spaces and geographies.
The indecipherable and inexperienced; the unknown and strange; Perhaps from an ancestral latitude it has echoed in some corner of the DNA, revealing vestiges of the memory and primordial passion that advances with the centuries. And it ends up feeling, understanding and enjoying because in its essence we also beat it.
Tenet said goodbye with the lyricism of "Danza de la Vida", which dates back to 1657, but whose author is anonymous.
"Life is a dream
that seems pleasant.
But the pleasure is short:
we all have to die.
They are not worth medicine, the machine does not help,
there is no cure: we all have to die.
We die singing; we die playing the sistro
or the zampoña; we all have to die
We die dancing, drinking, eating.
With this carrion, we all have to die. "
The viola da gamba in the hands of Lisa Terry and the theorbo performed by Hank Heijink completed the magic evening of the whole of the city in the Sala Pablo Casals. (Photo Jaime Torres Torres for National Foundation for Popular Culture)
A pity, however, that Tenet went unnoticed at the Casals Festival. Where is the audience that has traditionally supported this prestigious event?
The Pablo Casals Symphony Hall seemed a desert, but Tenet, in addition to its virtuosity and majesty, sang in Fine Arts with the same commitment of Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
There is no doubt that he will be remembered for much among the best of the Casals Festival 2018. Hopefully it will be repeated. Meanwhile, it is possible to relive the dreamy experience of Thursday by listening to their albums "A Feast For The Senses" and, of course, "The Secret Lover".
Are you ready?
" Some of the best singing to be heard in New York is from TENET, the early music group with remarkable vocal blends and deep understand of many-centuries-old music. The modern premiere of Schmelzer’s oratorio of sorts, Le Memorie Delorose — which has the Blessed Virgin Mary in Christ’s tomb — is Mar. 2 at Church of St. Luke the Fields (487 Hudson St.). Tenebrae: Pathway to Light highlights Buxtehude on Mar. 24 at St. Vincent Ferrer (869 Lexington Ave.). Collaborators are significant: the string ensemble Acronym on Mar. 2 and The Sebastians on Mar. 24."
Tenet’s instrumentalists broke up the program with substantial works by Nicolò Corradini, Giovanni Gabrieli and Giovanni Battista Fontana, allowing the two superb violinists, Aisslinn Nosky and Beth Wenstrom, to do some duetting of their own. In Gabrieli’s “Sonata XXI con Tre Violini,” the two excellent cornetto players, Alexandra Opsahl and Kiri Tollaksen, were joined by a third, Bruce Dickey, a renowned American virtuoso said to be visiting from his home in Italy.Read More
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
In Northern Italy, the singing women were a secret, advertised only to a select circle of noble auditors. They were Sirens. They excelled at the late Renaissance ideal of “sprezzatura”, the artful nonchalance of performing very difficult tasks with apparent ease.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read 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.' ..."Read More
"The New York-based early music group offer a luscious programme dominated by the 17th-century female composers Barbara Strozzi, whose L’amante segreto provides the collection’s title, and Francesca Caccini. A new work, Caroline Shaw’s Dolce cantavi, sits well here..."Read More