Review: Storie Sacre e Profane

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Durham Town Hall sets the scene for Dunelm Consort and Players’ June 17th rendition of Storie Sacre e Profane (‘Stories sacred and profane’). A powerful performance, the gifted ensemble is expertly led by burgeoning student conductor, Fabian Tindale Geere. An ornate and multifaceted performance, Storie Sacre e Profane serves as a celebration of creativity, both in terms of performative style and emotive expression.

This piece intertwines classical forms with profound feeling and expression

The tableau commences with L’Orfeo (1607), which tells the tale of the legendary bard who descends into Hades for the sake of his beloved Euridice, who later tragically dies on their wedding day. As with much Renaissance court music, this piece is rooted in classical imagery, beginning with a bucolic scene laid out in the form of a Greek chorus. There, a gathered congregation of Thracian nymphs and shepherds invoke the god of marriage to celebrate the arrival of summer. Underpinned by tragedy, this piece intertwines classical forms with profound feeling and expression.

Emma Kirby DBE had been due to perform this piece but was unexpectedly unable to perform, therefore, takes up her illustrious mantle with sublime nuance and dexterity. Clearly possessing a precocious talent, Loewinger leads this rendition with all the power it requires. Accompanying Loewinger’s clear and rich voice is a quartet of lutenists, many of whom learnt the lute especially for this performance, taught by Dr Hector Sequera Mora, a professor in Durham’s Music Department. The able lutenists are paired wonderfully with a mellifluous rendering of the Recorder, played by Madeleine Ballay, whose music fills the vaulted heights of Durham Town Hall, so elegantly bedecked in great banners and shields of old fame. on the violin, ’s cello, ’s harpsichord, and Laurence Williams’ continuo organ complete the players.

The first half continued with a series of madrigals and scenes from cantatas, which were sung one to a part as is the traditional style. There was a diverse range of thoughtful and energetic interpretations of the music.

The second part of this concert is comprised of Giacomo Carissimi’s 17th century Historia di Jephte. Taken from the Old Testament, this piece depicts an antiquated scene of feminine submission and self-sacrifice to God. Pious to a fault, this piece is nonetheless stirring, as it induces a primordial epoch with timeless rigour and intensity. Evocative extended recitatives are interspersed with reflective and expressive choruses. Proclamations of victory in battle send the choruses soaring from reflective reminiscences of former glory, to strident declarations of military valour and triumph, in a manner that both enthrals and delights.

Storie Sacre e Profane is a charismatic, redolent, and variously haunting and then sublime concert

Throughout this eclectic collection of evocative pieces, accomplished theorbist Jonatan Bougt provides graceful playing and strong stage presence, his music mingling with both his fellow players and the consort members with an effervescent synergy. Overall, Storie Sacre e Profane is a charismatic, redolent, and variously haunting and then sublime concert, and one eagerly anticipates their next performance.

Founded in 2015, Dunelm Consort and Players is Durham University’s society dedicated to the diverse repertoire of early music. Previous projects include Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri, Zelenka’s Miserere, Handel’s Acid and Galatea, Bach’s St John Passion alongside David Stancliffe and the Bishop’s Consort, and Handel’s Messiah, directed by Daniel Cook.

Image: via Dunelm Consort and Players

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