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April 6, 2010

The Sixteen disappoints

The Guardian (UK):

Harry Christophers and his choral group were in residence at the Queen Elizabeth Hall during the Easter weekend. As well as leading choral workshops, the Sixteen gave three concerts, devoted to the sacred music of the gothic revolution, Tudor England and Renaissance Italy in turn. Ranging from Pérotin to Palestrina, it promised to be a feast of some of the greatest choral music ever composed. Yet, if the first concert was representative, those who bought tickets expecting such a treat will have gone away feeling short-changed.

The opening concert, concentrating on Paris in the 12th century, was little more than a screening of the first instalment of the BBC's original Sacred Music series, shown in 2008, with Christophers and five of his male singers providing longer extracts of the music excerpted in the programme. The whole "concert" lasted 75 minutes without a break, of which less than 30 were devoted to live music of any kind. The chance to hear more of these pieces by the Notre Dame school, led by Léonin and Pérotin, so important in the development of polyphony out of plainsong yet so rarely performed today, was squandered.

The enterprise seemed ill-judged. Those who turned up because they had enjoyed the TV series must have expected more than just a rerun of what they had already watched; those who went to hear the music will have been thoroughly unimpressed. To make it even more tacky, the live performances were electronically "enhanced" – presumably an attempt to simulate the acoustic of St Denis in Paris, where the extracts for the programmes had been recorded, but really sounding more like the soundtrack to a 1950s sci-fi movie. Gruesome.

Posted by acapnews at April 6, 2010 10:39 PM


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