Saturday, 26 February 2011

Two incomparable countertenors in stellar concerts

(Reviewed by Nancy Snipper)
During Montreal’s Highlights Festival, The Theatre of  Early Music presented two special concerts. In the first one titled "The Lark and the Nightingale", Michael Chance and Daniel Taylor sang soprano-like pitches of such immeasurable beauty as they articulated the profoundly moving music and lyrics written by Henry Purcell (1659-1695). Profound in their religious and lovelorn themes, Purcell’s songs sublimely suited these world-class singers whose exquisite voices sonorously evoke a century international audiences are nostalgic for. The program’s setting was apt as well. Within Montreal’s graceful yet understated Chapelle Notre-Dame-De Bonsecours, Taylor with humour and modesty also gave the stage over to renowned musicians whose instruments artfully brought back the Early Baroque period. The lute (Sylvain Bergeron), viola (Pemi Paul), violins (Adrian Butterfield, Christina Zacharias), recorders (Mathias Maute, Sophie Larivière), cello (Amanda Keesmat) and organ (Christopher Jackson) were in perfect unison as they lushly filled this lovely chapel with instrumental concerto titled, "On the Death of Henry Purcell", composed by recorder/flute virtuoso Mathias Maute.
Encores were endless; perfection can produce such adulation for artists who touch our hearts in the purest way. These artists did. 

Daniel Taylor

Michael Chance
The following evening’s concert titled, ”Come Ye Sons of Art” featured the choir and orchestra of The Theatre of Early Music with Daniel Taylor conducting. He also sang as did Michael Chance. They repeated some songs from the previous evening, including, “Strike the Viol”, “Fairest Isle” and a lovely duet whose song’s remarkably beautiful refrain of “Oh no, Oh no” highlighted their notably lush harmonies. Another repeat from the previous concert was Matthias Maute’s “Concerto on the Death of Henry Purcell”. He masterfully performed again with Sophie Larivière. There was absolute clarity and ease despite the alacrity of tempo and notes most prevalent in the two allegro movements.  The concert’s title song featured full orchestra, choir, and soloists that sent rapture up to the imperious vaulted ceiling of Saint Léon de Westmount’s Church – concert’s venerable venue. Tenor, Jacques-Olivier Chartier, and sopranos Hélène Brunet and Jana Miller, along with the rich bass voice of Daniel Lichiti beautifully interpreted the lyric segments whose themes were of love, nature, religion and royal jubilation. In its entirety, the finale’s long vocal and orchestra piece was in fact an ode composed for the birthday of Queen Mary II in 1694, by Henry Purcell, one year before his passing. One must mention the virtuoso playing of British-born Adrian Butterfield, first violinist who received his training at Cambridge University and whose recordings are world renown. Amanda Keesmat on cello was remarkably strong. In fact, all the soloists, including trumpeter Alexis Basque and lute player, Sylvain Bergeron have performed centre stage in prestigious halls in North America and Europe. 

The above concerts took place February 25 & 26.