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. 

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 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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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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