The composers on the program of Early Music Now’s concert last Saturday evening—Luis de Briceño, Antonio Martin y Coll, Francisco Berxes, to name a few—are not your typical household names of classical music. A bit of a shame, given that the music of these Spanish composers of the 1600s is full of life and all-too-human emotions that we can all fully identify with centuries later.
Early Music Now hosted, in the resonant St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, French ensemble Le Poème Harmonique in a varied and revelatory concert of Spanish music that made its way into France—influencing generations of the latter’s infatuation with all things south of the border. It was, all in all, a fabulous trip back to the Renaissance and early-Baroque eras.
The instrumental ensemble—violinist Fiona-Emilie Poupard, viola da gamba player Lucas Peres, violone player Thomas de Pierrefeu, percussionist Pere Olive and Baroque guitarist and conductor Vincent Dumestre—played several purely instrumental pieces—providing the apropos dances to this concert titled “Danza!” Kudos especially go out to violinist Poupard and percussionist Olive, both of whom shined brightly in an ensemble that, one could say, is composed of all-stars.
But much of the program consisted of exquisite songs, sung with character, obvious enthusiasm, attention to emotive detail and superb enunciation by mezzo-soprano Isabelle Druet. Thankfully, Early Music Now provided attendees with a full-size concert program with complete texts and translations for the many songs in antique Spanish. This made it easy to follow every word of every song in the 80-minute concert. The songs were alternately lively (“Andalo çaravanda!”—“Come on, Saraband!” which praises a then-popular dance); and sad (“No so yo”—“Not Me,” a song about love lost).