Books have their Destiny
Choral Polyphony from Renaissance Treviso and Venice
Saturday 20th March 2010
The Chapter House, Exeter Cathedral
Review - Contributed
The Chapter House of Exeter Cathedral was the ideal venue for a concert of choral polyphony by the Collegium Singers directed by Peter Leech on Saturday March 20th.
In his detailed and highly informative programme notes Peter Leech pointed out that many great musical masterpieces were tragically lost as the result of an air raid on Treviso Cathedral in April 1944. However a number survived by such composers as Giovanni Nasco, Francesco Santacroce and Petrus Spalenza. It seemed very fitting therefore that some of their works should be performed in Exeter Cathedral which also suffered significant bomb damage in the same war.
The concert was structured around the mass Aeterna Christi munera by Palestrina interspersed with pieces by these and other composers whose work has been associated with Treviso. The opening motet Veni creator spiritus by Crecquillon demonstrated crisp and alert singing and contrasted well with the beautiful balance and clarity of the Palestrina. In Santacroce’s Domine deus omnipotens Peter Leech brought out rich and controlled singing from the choir. Throughout the concert the excellent acoustic of the Chapter House ensured that variations in texture and dynamic were fully conveyed to the audience.
The final piece was Spalenza’s resonant motet Deus alma spes. A splendid feature of this work is a declamatory part by the second sopranos where they implore the saints Theonistus, Tabra and Tabrata to “pray for us” and ended the concert on a jubilant note.
The appreciative audience that filled the Chapter House clearly felt that the Collegium’s visit to Exeter was a major success. On this showing the Collegium’s next concert on June 19th in Wellington (Anthems and motets from Handel’s London) must be a firm date in the diary.