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March 24, 2006

Pomerium blends sacred and profane

The Tribune (IN):

Under the direction of Alexander Blachly, the New York City-based Pomerium gave a superb performance of a cappella Renaissance choral works on Tuesday night at the University of Notre Dame's DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts in a program titled "Masters of the Renaissance: Du Fay, Ockeghem, Josquin, Monteverdi, Gesualdo."

The highlight of the first half of the program, which consisted of works by early Renaissance masters, was "Mass on L'homme armé," by Johannes Ockeghem (d. 1497). The melodic material for the Mass, which was taken from the most famous melody of Renaissance Europe, "L'homme armé" (it also was used as thematic material for other pieces on the program), is woven into the fabric of all five movements. In this performance, a portion of the ensemble sang the French "L'homme armé" text beneath the Latin text, and both texts were clear and audible. The singers navigated through the composition's musical architecture with complete ease and abandon.

The second half of the program, which featured music from the late Renaissance, consisted of four madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi (c. 1567--1643) and six motets and responsories by Carlo Gesualdo (c. 1561--1613). The Monteverdi pieces are of particular interest: Conceived as love songs set to Italian poetry, they were later adapted to sacred texts in Latin; Pomerium sang the Latin texts.

Gesualdo's works, like those of Monteverdi, point toward a new sophistication, especially in his use of chromaticism. The singers were able to adjust their sound to the heavier, fuller lines of Monteverdi and Gesualdo, always maintaining a precise, clear tone that allowed them to sing perfect chromatic harmonies.

A professor of music at Notre Dame, Blachly, the founder and director of Pomerium, knows the Renaissance repertoire intimately and has an innate understanding of voices and how they work. As such, Pomerium performs not so much as a choral group but as an ensemble of solo singers who know how to work together without overshadowing one another. Because their voices are of a high caliber, the singers in Pomerium brought something to this performance that is often lacking in other ensembles' performances of this repertoire: color and timbre.

Posted by acapnews at March 24, 2006 12:04 AM