Edinburgh International Festival music review: Le Concert Spirituel, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Ken Walton
The concept of “the colossal Baroque” – a term Tuesday’s programme note used to express the extravagant scale of church music encouraged by post-Reformation reaction in Roman Catholic Italy – must have been to 16th/17th century ears what a state-of-the-art sound system would sound like to us: a kind of wrap-around assault on the senses guaranteed to send the listener into a state of mental and spiritual euphoria.
We experienced something of that from French early music ensemble Le Concert Spirituel, in a programme, emulating a typical ceremonial Mass of the time, that was built around the recently rediscovered 40-part “Missa supra Ecco si beato giorno” by Alessandro Striggio.
With five distinct choirs and an earthy band of sackbuts, cornett, dulcians and continuo spread around him, Hervé Piquet directed a theatrically-inspired sequence of music that opened with drone-accompanied processional, then separated the ensuing movements of Striggio’s sumptuously-textured mass, with psalm settings, motets and decorated plainsong by Monteverdi (his resplendent “Memento Domino David”) and the lesser known Orazio Benevolo and Francesco Corteccia.
The giddy mix of polychoral styles was constantly refreshing, their performances delivered with intimacy-writ-large in the Usher Hall’s embracing acoustics.
Published in The Scotsman on 13 August 2015
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