By Peter Jacobi | H-T Reviewer | firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday evening, Bloomington Early Music took over the soaring rotunda of the Monroe County Courthouse for a program titled “A Renaissance Christmas Story," featuring "Advent Motets and the Story of Christmas, Music of Heinrich Schutz.” BEM consists of those in town and gown who seek to bring back BLEMF, our dearly missed Bloomington Early Music Festival. Friday’s event was one of the sponsors’ temptation-inducing evenings of early music designed to increase our longing for the whole package. Hints indicate we may get at least a fuller package next spring.
If what’s to come is anywhere near what the seated and the standing attendees heard on Friday, then success is assured. Schutz, considered to be probably the most important German composer pre-Bach, wrote glorious music. Under the inspired direction of Dana Marsh, the recently appointed head of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music’s Historical Performance Institute, Schutz was honored with outstanding performances by four continuo players, an instrumental ensemble of 10 musicians and a vocal contingent of 14.
They first tackled a couple of motets set to words from Isaiah foreshadowing the Christmas story, radiant pieces full of exultation. Then came that Christmas story, told in recitative style, a declamatory form of delivering the spoken word musically that Schutz mastered while studying in Italy and then took home with him. New it was back then. Now, it’s a familiar and accepted method still prominently used.
Schutz’s score is stunning as it expresses the Christmas story. Stunning describes the performance, too. The instrumental elements were beautifully revealed. The singing amazed for its resonance and radiant quality. It was pristine, without slurs or slips, without slides or notes just almost there. Tenor Gregorio Taniguchi had the most to do as the Evangelist, the story’s narrator. He was terrific; the others, fortunately, matched him.