Saturday December 8, 2012 - The Hudson Valley Singers gave a lovely concert of music by Henry Purcell (above) at Saint Ignatius of Antioch Church on West End Avenue tonight. I asked my friend Monica Wellington to join me; neither of us had been to this church previously.
Having been steeping myself in the music of Richard Wagner for the past several days, and with two big Verdi nights at The Met in the coming week, the music of Purcell seemed wonderfully fresh and poignant tonight. Many composers have the gift of touching the heart by the modulation of harmonies, yet there's something outstanding and spiritually satisfying about Purcell's music that really gets to the heart of the matter, especially when it is experienced in the resonant ambiance of a space like St. Ignatius.
Th evening commenced marvelously with a suite from The Fairy Queen, music which immediately reveals the dancelike quality of the Master's work. The instrumentalists of the New York Metamorphoses Chamber Ensemble played with loving attention to detail with Eugene Sirotkine presiding from the keyboard. The choral voices blended beautifully, individual timbres sometimes taking prominence as Purcell's sonic delights echoed thru the lofty space.
Interior of St Ignatius of Antioch Church
A quintet of very enjoyable vocal soloists kept interest high: Liana Brook Guberman, Jenny Green Ribeiro, Alexandra Lushtak, Christopher Sokolowski, and Christian Zaremba. Each had his or her opportunity to shine and each produced at need the delicious straight-tone effects that send chills up and down the spine in this music. Duet passages were especially well-polished, and Ms. Guberman scored with a lovely rendering of Dido's Lament - which made me wish they'd gone on with the opera's final chorus. Mr. Sokolowski sang with plaintive clarity, while Ms. Lushtak revealed a particularly attractive lyric-contralto that really moved me.
Monica and I continually commented on the suitability of Purcell's music for dance; I've often wondered why we don't see more choreographers turning to this rhythmically and harmonically rich treasure trove as setting for ballets and contemporary-style danceworks.
"Music for a while...shall all your cares beguile," Ms. Lushtak sang with her tawny-rich tone; and for a while as the evening progressed the daily concerns of life did truly seem to vanish.