A full house proved the magnificent Fabbri Library of the House of the Redeemer was the place to be on Sunday for Salon/Sanctuary Concert’s seventh season opener featuring music of baroque Italy. A reprise of last season’s compelling program of Jewish and Catholic cross-pollination through music, From Ghetto to Cappella was completely sold out. While we felt badly for the many concertgoers who were turned away for lack of space, we welcomed the chance to enjoy for the second time this eye-opening array of musical treasures and fascinating concert, which showed more dialogue than segregation during one of the most oppressive periods in history.
During the time of the Counter-Reformation, the world’s first ghetto was built in Venice, physically separating Jews from Christians and putting even further limits on their mobility in Christian society. The music from the time reveals more of an exchange than isolation, however, and in true Salon/Sanctuary fashion, the concert explored a theme overlooked by other presenters – in this case, the effect each religious musical culture had on the other.
Fans of Jessica Gould’s roving concert series have come to expect visual splendor with intellectual stimulation from Salon/Sanctuary events, and Sunday’s program served an ample helping of both in the exquisite 1608 Library. Ms. Gould, not only a fervent scholar but a fine soprano, participated in a performance replete with both passion and precision. Five musicians – Ms. Gould, contralto Noa Frenkel, James Waldo on viola da gamba, lutenist Diego Cantalupi and Pedro d’Aquino on organ and harpsichord – did exquisite justice to a delectible variety of baroque treasures sung in Latin, Italian, and Hebrew.
Israeli contralto Noa Frenkel opened the program with a haunting ancient Hebrew chant from Yemen, D’ror Yikra, which segued into Durante’s Vergin tutto Amor, known as a pedagogical piece, here passionately sung by Ms. Gould with striking ornamentation that recalled the phrygian modes heard just moments ago in the preceding selection. The rich timbre and full-bodied sound of both soprano and contralto was a welcome contrast to a the vocal androgyny that has become commonplace and even (mystifyingly) celebrated in some early music circles.
We love duets, and it was lovely to hear the two women’s rich voices blending effortlessly in O immaculata, a sacred piece from Benedetto Marcello’s large volumeL’Estro Poetico Armonico, which integrated the melodies of chants he heard in the synagogue into cantatas and duets with Italian texts.
The Jewish-Italian composer Salomone Rossi has figured prominently in Salon/Sanctuary programming, with four previous seasons including a concert dedicated solely to his work. Rossi got into trouble with members of his own community for integrating the polyphony of the church into Hebrew sacred music that he wrote for synagogue services, because polyphony was considered too sensuous a form for people who considered themselves to be in exile. The two Rossi songs on the concert, Cor mio, sung by Ms Gould, and Ohime che tanto amate, sung by Ms. Frenkel, were performed with tasteful ornamentation and stylistic flair, accompanied with panache by the winning continuo team of gambist James Waldo and lutenist Diego Cantalupi.
Mr. Cantalupi, a visiting guest artist from Italy, shined in two works by Girolamo Kapsberger, a Venetian composer of noble German birth who wrote extravagant works for lute. With his impressive instrument, the long-necked theorbo, Mr. Cantalupi’s turn as a soloist in a Kapsberger Sarabanda and Toccata was marked by technical finesse and stylistic aplomb.
The innovative and trailblazing female composer Barbara Strozzi received a level of recognition in her lifetime that was simply unheard of for women composers of the 17th century, and she received her due on Sunday in two selections, one sacred and one secular. Ranging from soprano heights to contralto depths, Ms. Gould performed a wildly inventive Salve Regina that was equal parts spiritual and earthly passion. Handling the byzantine melismatic passages and striking chromatic descents with ease, Ms. Gould’s dramatic commitment and vocal sheen kept the audience on the edge of their seats. Ms. Frenkel’s chocolate contralto showed an equally expansive range in the gorgeous cantata Lagrime Mie, in which cantorial hebraic chant-like fragments can be heard in the laments of an abandoned lover.
Two Handel selections capped off the program. In the chamber duet Langue, geme, the two dark-hued voices intertwined in langorous legato stretches and matched impressively in lines of virtuosic coloratura. Immediately after, a short but powerful dramtic duet from the oratorio Esther, sung here in Hebrew from the 1759 version commissioned by the Jewish community of Amsterdam brought the concert to an inspiring conclusion. The rollicking allegro from the Langue, gemeduet served as a playful encore.
While our tastes run to polyphony over chant, From Ghetto to Cappella is a beautifully performed, thought-provoking and musically splendid program that we hope to see reprised again on future seasons so that more people can hear it. Special thanks go out to NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò for their role as co-producers of the event.
Waldo got the night off to a strong start with a nuanced, richly ambered take of the Suite for Solo Cello in G Major, BWV 1007…Playing from memory, eyes closed, Waldo let the music breathe while he stayed true to the composer’s steady, circling pace.
The centerpiece of the show was Brookshire’s breathtaking performance of the lightning volleys of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903. It’s rare enough to hear on harpsichord rather than piano or church organ, rarer still to hear the instrument whir, and resonate, and sing as Brookshire made it do.
Salon/Sanctuary Concerts have earned themselves a substantial following for their adventurous programming; their performances last year with soprano and impresario Jessica Gould, showcasing haunting Italian Jewish music by Salamone Rossi juxtaposed with works by his Christian contemporaries, were rich, and haunting.
– 11/29/15 Lucid Culture
The program, which lasted just over 90 minutes...had a pleasing symmetry. It began and ended with pairs of opera arias by Handel: prime territory for Mr. Costanzo, a charismatic singer much in demand, whose abundant technical skills are matched to dramatic resources already impressive and steadily growing.
Mr. Brookshire was an alert, stylish partner in these and in a penetrating set of Purcell songs; alone, he dazzled in Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903) and in three brilliantly characterized sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti.
For the program’s centerpiece, Vivaldi’s cantata “Qual per Ignoto Calle” (“By Unknown Streets”), the harpsichord was moved aside to provide a clear patch of floor. As choreographed by Troy Schumacher, Mr. Angle stalked, stretched and spun around Mr. Costanzo.
Gently intermingling eros and agape, Mr. Angle lifted and carried Mr. Costanzo and encircled him in Pietà-like embraces. The mix of intimacy and vulnerability in the choreography and in its enactment, abetted by Mr. Brookshire’s exacting musical dramaturgy, suited the cantata’s amorous anguish elegantly.
Jessica Gould’s popular Salon/Sanctuary Concerts series presents impeccably curated early-music performances in intimate historical venues.
Sarah Hucal, Time Out New York (9/26/12)
The perfection of Profeti’s intonation and ensemble was a joy to listen to in itself, not to mention the most persuasive vehicle this relatively little-known music could have. In addition to their virtues as an ensemble, each member has a vocal and musical character of his own, and their solo work was fully engaging. And they seem to be able to charm any audience.
Michael Miller, New York Arts (4/15/14)
Salon/Sanctuary’s smartly constructed and affecting presentation of “Exodus: Dreams of the Promised Land in Antebellum America”...built to some crescendos worthy of a Broadway stage.
John Sobel, Blogcritics (4/6/14)
Mr. Scott, with Jessica Gould, the soprano, and Jennifer Lane, the mezzo-soprano, performed these sections with a dramatic intensity that honored the texts… The program also demonstrated Pergolesi’s flexibility, evident in the two very different approaches he took to the Salve Regina. The first, in F minor, is darkly melancholy, with a lyrical undercurrent that Ms. Lane projected beautifully. The second, in A minor, is the opposite: florid lyricism dominates, but mournful contrition, captured in Pergolesi’s chromaticism, lurks just beneath the surface. Ms. Gould projected that uneasy combination of qualities ably.
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times (3/30/10)
It is a rare occurrence at any concert or opera when every possible aspect of the performance experience succeeds completely. I am not simply referring to the musicians, concert hall or instruments but to the gestalt: the unified whole that makes the sum greater than all of its parts.
Stan Metzger, Musicweb-International (5/10/10)
An opera lover addicted to Sturm und Drang, massive sets, big voices and lots of action might find the Lieder recital to be a bit minimalistic. But, and this is a BIG BUT, all depends on the artistry of the singer and the piano partner…When they are true artists the scenery and the story-telling take place in the listener’s mind. This was made perfectly clear in a flawless recital given by baritone Jesse Blumberg and pianist Audrey Axinn as part of the Salon/Sanctuary Concerts, a series created by Artistic Director Jessica Gould.
Meche Kroop, The Opera Insider (4/3/11)
Leave it to Jessica Gould to stimulate our intelligence with her scholarship while tickling our ears with music.
Meche Kroop, The Opera Insider (12/19/11)
Modine's Jefferson came to life as a complex, compelling, and unexpectedly funny and vulnerable, as well as visionary, man... and the music of the French Revolution was expertly rendered by the exceptional playing of the Clarion Society Orchestra, and the heartfelt, thrilling performances of soprano Jessica Gould and tenor Karim Sulayman.
Performances of music from the Enlightenment — or public airings of the ideas of that era so central to our nation’s founding — are in scarce supply in contemporary America. Having both in one evening is fairly unheard of. That was a great part of the appeal of More Between Heaven and Earth (presented by Salon/Sanctuary Concerts), combining theater and opera, with a text culled directly from four decades of letters between Thomas Jefferson and the Italian/British composer Maria Cosway....
Tenor Karim Sulayman entranced the audience with his lyrical, focused and tender voice in arias and songs by Sacchini and James Hewitt. Soprano Jessica Gould was dazzling in two Sacchini arias, both perfectly suited to her expansive range, coloratura facility, and multi-hued, powerful sound.
The two singers had superb accompaniment by members of the Clarion Society Orchestra, who also shone in several instrumental pieces. Violinist Cynthia Roberts gave a beautifully mournful Corelli Adagio, and in this dramatic context, Avi Stein’s furious and powerful harpsichord solo, Duphly’s Medée, symbolized the onslaught of the French Revolution.