Henry VIII & Jordi Savall too
Go medieval on your ears: Early music heavyweights headed to Houston
The city exercises its musical acumen this upcoming fall and spring with the 2010-2011 season of Houston Early Music, an organization specializing in music from the Middle Ages through the 18th century.
A hotbed of talent? Indeed.
Witness the synergy of seasoned musicians and historical instruments in this medley of mesmerizing melodies:
Jordi Savall could steal a show in The Route to the New World: Spain to Mexico, a collaboration with Da Camera of Houston. An icon in early music pedagogy, research and performance, Savall is the star viol player, conductor and composer of contemporary Catalonia, and will be importing his own renowned Hespèrion XXI with soprano Montserrat Figueras and La Capella Reial de Catalunya.
"Jordi Savall is a huge name in early music and known worldwide," says Bettie Anderson, a past president of HEM and continuing board member. "He's a real heavyweight in the genre and should be extraordinary."
The baroque compositions of Old Spain will be buttressed by references to the Mexican Baroque and living huasteca and jarocho traditions by Mexico's Ensemble Tembembe in commemoration of the 200th year of Mexican independence. The Hispanic celebration comes together on Oct. 2 at the Cullen Theater at Wortham Center.
HEM honors the holiday spirit with "A Piper's Nöel" on Monday, Dec. 13, when Christ Church Cathedral will resound with a robust blending of voice, shawn, sackbut, recorder and bagpipes. Audiences can revel in the range of Renaissance polyphony and modest piper's tunes produced by the award-winning mixed ensemble.
With director Adam Gilbert's pre-concert lecture, spectators may brush up on the medieval carols of England, France, Spain, Italy and Germany and clue in to the present-day celebrations in Rome's Piazza Navona.
Salute the spring with "The Harmony of Nations" on March 28 at the Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, featuring English violinist and conductor Monica Huggett.
"Huggett is the most enchanting baroque violinist and an adventure to watch — a little show within a show," Anderson explains. "She's a dumpling of a woman, so you'd never guess she were so lightening fast. Her music is just riveting — even if you didn't know anything about the Baroque and violin, you'll be able to appreciate it."
Huggett brings a dynamic program from the United Kingdom, including Biber's "Mystery Sonatas" for virtuoso violin, exquisitely refined French music for the viola da gamba, sprightly tunes from Jacobean England and a sonata for violin and harpsichord by J.S. Bach. She'll be bringing her Trio Sonnerie group, considered one of the most imaginative, flexible and dynamic period instrumental ensembles, boasting the versatility to expand from a trio of violin, viola da gamba and keyboard into a full chamber orchestra.
Supplement the performance with a pre-concert lecture by the song-savvy Gregory Barnett of Rice University's Shepherd School of Music.
"The Six Wives of Henry VIII" represents HEM's season finale with the return of the internationally acclaimed Flanders Recorder Quartet. A guest appearance by soprano Cecile Kempenaers will give homage to the sheets of contemporary music by award-winning Belgian composer Piet Swert. Recorder quartet, voice and narrator will coalesce in this compilation of medieval and improvised music, a scene from Shakespeare, letters from King Henry and Anne Bolyen and original verse written specifically for the project.
Henry VIII may be a familiar story — but think of this rendition as a 21st-century remix being spun at Trinity Episcopal Church on May 2, 2011.
Little known fact: The king was an accomplished musician himself. Get the full scoop before the performance at a talk delivered by Thomas Crowe of the University of St. Thomas.
"Our concerts are really choice," Bettie Anderson says.
The eclecticism of the season, combined with the appealing tariff, places Houston Early Music's lineup among the not-to-be-missed music events of the months ahead.