Tunes Assessment: ‘My Days,’ Homage to Elizabethan Music at St. Thomas Church

November 15th, 2013

“My Days” is the title of a program of mostly Renaissance operates for voices and viols that was offered Tuesday at St. Thomas by that church’s Choir of Men and Boys and the fantastic English viol consort Fretwork. It is also the title of an arresting new operate by Nico Muhly, a touching declaration of fraternity with the excellent Elizabethan composers that experienced its United States premiere that night.

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Mr. Muhly’s affinity for English Renaissance tunes was born throughout the several hours he expended as a little one chorister studying and carrying out this content. So it was with a perception of visceral familiarity that he decided to use a commission from Wigmore Hall in London to create a homage to Orlando Gibbons that would attract on the stylistically ambidextrous talents of Fretwork and the all-male Hilliard Ensemble.

For this performance, that vocal ensemble was changed by a finely well balanced quartet from St. Thomas made up of the alto Geoffrey Williams, the tenors Martin Coyle and Lawrence Jones, and the bass Craig Phillips. In “My Days,” Mr. Muhly sets a up to date account of Gibbons’s loss of life in 1625, embedding it in Psalm 39, which includes the words and phrases “Behold, thou hast manufactured my days as it ended up a span extended.”

To hear it performed right soon after Gibbons’s personal setting of that psalm supplied the very same forensic enjoyment 1 may possibly expertise poring more than images of family members users separated by generations, retracing physiognomic similarities whilst noting the modifications of trend. The two composers engage in with the friction developed by close harmonies and tangled instrumental lines, but in “My Days,” the dissonances are a lot more stringent and far more repeated, and Mr. Muhly draws a broader spectrum of colors from the viols.

The program also included tracks for solo lute and for solo treble and lute by John Dowland that sounded as beautiful as they were fragile, skirting the border of audibility inside the huge church. In choral performs by John Sheppard, William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, the choir proved alone to be one particular of the city’s finest. Its sound, molded by John Scott, a conductor skilled at St. John’s School, Cambridge, was sleek and evenly blended — apart from in Gibbons’s “Cries of London,” in which a warren of avenue hawkers’ voices was rendered with speechlike zest.

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