Classics Today | 01/11/2019 | Transparent, Illuminating Monteverdi From Tenet

by Robert Levine 

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.

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. 

SF Chronicle | 10/14/2018 | An enchanting program of pop music from Baroque-era Venice

SF Chronicle | 10/14/2018 | An enchanting program of pop music from Baroque-era Venice

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.

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Caribbean Business | 3/15/2018 | Tenet: Something out of This World

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. 

National Foundation for Popular Culture | 3/10/2018 | Tenet: Something out of this World

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?

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 | 12/31/2017 | Ending the Year With a Pair of Early-Music Ensembles

The New York Times | 12/31/2017 | Ending the Year With a Pair of Early-Music Ensembles

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.

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

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

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.

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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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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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Bachtrack | 6/23/2014 | A fine Monteverdi Vespers from the Tenet Ensemble

Bachtrack | 6/23/2014 | A fine Monteverdi Vespers from the Tenet Ensemble

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) is the composer who best links the Renaissance with the Baroque periods and what was known as the prima pratica and seconda pratica, aka the “old style” and the “modern style”. The former emphasized clear, smooth polyphony as ordered by the Council of Trent and personified by Palestrina (the text was always to be understood), specified under what circumstances dissonances were to be used, and relied on the cantus firmus (fixed song) technique that was the backbone of Gregorian Chant. But he also made use of the stile moderno, which used monody — a single vocal line, sometimes highly ornamented, over a bass line played by lute, theorbo, organ, harpsichord, or a combination — the type of exclamation that was being used in opera, dance forms, and instrumental interludes. And none of his works exemplifies this connection, this perfect marriage, better than his Vespers of 1610.

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The Boston Musical Intelligencer | 6/23/2014 | Tenet’s Green Mountain Vespers

The Boston Musical Intelligencer | 6/23/2014 |  Tenet’s Green Mountain Vespers

The vocal ensemble Tenet, under the direction of Scott Metcalfe, performed a “Vespers for the Feast of St. John the Baptist” as part of its Green Mountain Project on Sunday at St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge. As the bilingually punned name suggests, the project concentrates on the music of Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643). For this particular program, the group’s nine singers were joined by two violins, a bass violin, two cornetti, four sackbuts, two theorbos, and a positiv organ for a glowing concert of early Baroque sacred delights.

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The New York Times | 6/24/2014 | Early Music and Its Future

The New York Times | 6/24/2014 | Early Music and Its Future

The new Early Music Festival: NYC, which ended last week, gives reason for cautious hope. You can’t be categorical about its prospects one way or the other, because several more or less similar ventures have come and gone in recent years.

But it is also clear that times are changing, and the current climate seems propitious. To a critic who used to lament with some regularity the lack of a vibrant early-music scene in New York, comparable to those in Boston and San Francisco — let alone, say, London and Cologne — the last decade has proved astounding.

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The Boston Globe | 6/19/2014 | Green Mountain’s Vespers setting suited to a saint

The Boston Globe | 6/19/2014 | Green Mountain’s Vespers setting suited to a saint

We know Monteverdi as, among other things, the composer of the “Vespro della Beata Virgine,” commonly known as the “Vespers of 1610.” It is by many leagues his most renowned piece of sacred music, and one of the great liturgy settings of the 17th century. Yet treating the “Vespers” as a stable, discrete work is deceptive. Since it entered the canon, debates over its nature, purpose, even its actual component parts have arisen, persisting to this day. This provides opportunities for fresh thinking and rediscovery, not only about this piece but also about the context that gave rise to it.

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The New York Times | 1/3/2011 | Worth a Reprise at 401

<back to NEWS

Worth a Reprise at Age 401

By Steve Smith, The New York Times

Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Karsten Moran for The New York Times

“Vespers of 1610,” the Monteverdi work, was performed on Sunday at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin by a group that included, from left, Jolle Greenleaf, Molly Quinn and Virginia Warnken.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

Almost exactly a year ago, the New York soprano Jolle Greenleaf, the Boston violinist Scott Metcalfe and a couple of dozen close associates from around the country presented the fruit of what they called theGreen Mountain Project: a performance of Monteverdi’s grand and glorious Vespers of 1610, mounted in observance of the work’s 400th anniversary. A tremendous popular and critical success, the concert might have been the culmination of a one-off labor of love.

Instead, evidently, it was the start of a beautiful friendship. On Sunday evening Ms. Greenleaf, Mr. Metcalfe and nearly all the musicians involved in the original Green Mountain Project — its name a play on Monteverdi’s — repeated their feat at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, near Times Square.

Advance buzz and the lure of free admission (with premium seats available at a cost) attracted a capacity audience, with spectators seemingly jammed into every aisle and galley. With incense and expectation hanging thick in the imposing sanctuary of Smoky Mary’s (as the church is affectionately known), Ms. Greenleaf welcomed the gathered throng to what she said would be an annual event.

Musicians from the Green Mountain Project performing the Vespers of 1610 at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin on Sunday. CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

Faced with the prospect of yearly visitations, and the attendant risks of routine and overexposure, Monteverdi’s sacred masterpiece is well suited to the challenge. No strict composition, the Vespers — formally titled “Vespro Della Beata Vergine” (“Vespers of the Blessed Virgin”) — is a compilation of Psalm settings, antiphons, motets and other pieces. From these, a Marian vespers service can be devised in a variety of ways, according to scholarship and tradition.

Still, having arrived at a compelling formula for last year’s performance — psalms prefaced by antiphons and followed by motets; intonation pitched a semitone higher than the modern standard — Ms. Greenleaf and Mr. Metcalfe repeated it this year. That consistency surely helped to bind geographically dispersed collaborators into the tightly knit ensemble on display here.

Which is not to say that everything went strictly according to plan. The tenor Aaron Sheehan, having already made a strong impression in the sensual solo motet “Nigra Sum,” ably filled in for a sick colleague in “Duo Seraphim.” Virginia Warnken, an elegant alto, replaced the same absent singer in several ensemble selections on just 24 hours’ notice.

If anyone was nervous about these last-minute maneuverings, it never showed. What came through consistently, in a seamless procession of solemn antiphons, ravishing solos, intricately wound polyphony, buoyant instrumental work and artfully dispersed ensembles, was an intense commitment to bringing Monteverdi’s masterwork to life.

Obviously, no small credit was due to the composer, from whose flamboyant imagination such glories sprang. But in Ms. Greenleaf’s passionate leadership, Mr. Metcalfe’s exacting direction and the meticulous, stylish performances of all assembled, Monteverdi was in exceptionally capable hands.

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.