Our first international review – by Giovanni Greto at Agoravox Italia – with the Venetia Antiqua Ensemble and Liesl Odenweller as part of the Venice Music Project 

Translation by Alice Eastaugh..

The 3rd season of concerts of the Venice Music Project, linked to the orchestra ‘Venetia Antiqua’ is currently taking place with concerts deserving of our attention and interest. Recently the ensemble, which is dedicated to preserving the integrity of Venetian baroque music, invited the exclusively female voice group ‘Seraphim’ to perform in the small comfortable/ comforting church of San Giovanni Evangelista.

Directed and founded a year ago by Vetta Wise, (south African of English and Greek origins), Seraphim performs ‘beautiful music in beautiful places’, as says the leaflet. Made up of 10 angelic female professional voices, it immediately gained the noteworthy approval of both public and critics, thanks to a repertoire that spans from medieval to contemporary music.

The Venetian evening opened with 2 short concertos of Vivaldi, both followed by ‘Venetia Antiqua’ in E minor RV 127 for strings and harmonic basso continuo, and C major RV 451 for oboes, strings and basso continuo. The performance of the orchestra was good, especially since they chose less well known scores of Vivaldi, avoiding masterpieces such as the ‘Four Seasons’, that in Venice you can hear on an almost daily basis, to the delight – or annoyance? –of the tourists.

At this point the accapella choir performed ‘In the Merry month of May’ by Henry Youll, an English composer of madrigals from the 1700s, followed by ‘O virgo Splendens’, the first of the 10 works known as the ‘Vermilion Book of Montserrat’. It consists of a collection of religious texts written in the 13th century in the Abbey of Montserrat in Catalonia, amongst which we get several medieval hymns, composed by pilgrims in Catalan, Occitano and Latin. They then used this list of holy music: There is no Rose from the Trinity Carol Roll of the 15th centrury, Agimus tibi domine by Orlando de Lasso, O taste and See by Vaughan Williams, 2 contemporary works ‘Spiritual’ and ‘Steal Away’. The arrangement of the singers was curious but effective: some of them were behind and some in front of the altar, with an excellent mastery of dynamics. The final majestic piece, (performed together with Venezia Antiqua and the American soprano Liesl Odenweller), the Miserere for soloists, voice parts, and strings, written by the German composer who lived in Venice, Johann Adolph Hasse, stole the hearts of the audience who gave it resounding applause.

Amongst the choral voices, particularly in the contemporary works, the outstanding voice of the Welsh singer Jo Westaway stood out, for the technical prowess, and the ability of her singing to convey emotion.

The following day the group concluded their Venice tour, performing during the most important morning mass in the Church of the Carmini, part of their repertoire already heard, added to which was the ‘Mille Cherubini in Coro’ of Franz Schubert and Alleluja from the Codex of Montpellier.

Giovanni Greto – AgoraVox Italia – May 2015

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