Early Music Vancouver’s aptly titled concert, On the Breath of Angels, with the heavenly combination of soprano Hana Blažíková, cornettist Bruce Dickey and The Breathtaking Collective, will be a beautiful memory by the time this review goes to press. But their CD of the same name is a recommended memento of an enthralling evening of music.
Their delicately balanced program included instrumental pieces and compositions with excerpts from operas and old manuscripts, arranged in a sequence built from sacred to full-out passion.
It opened with The Breathtaking Collective playing an instrumental piece from the Carlo G Manuscript, virtuoso liturgical music from circa 1600. Dickey joined them on the cornetto, the once-forgotten instrument said to be closest to the human voice, alongside Blažíková.
Dickey played Palestrina’s Angelus Domini descendit with the same clarity Blažíková achieves vocally. With another consummate musician, Michael Sponseller, on continuo organ, Dickey found notes and nuances that filled the vaulted Christ Church Cathedral with the music for which it was designed. It was divine.
So was Ivan Moody’s O Archangels and Angels, with Blažíková and Dickey accompanied by Joanna Blendulf on viola da gamba to provide a lower voice that blended resonantly with their upper registers. Then Francesco Cavalli’s Sonata a 3 began with the continuo, joined in turn by each of the early string instruments in a virtuoso performance.
As if that wasn’t enough, cornetto and organ accompanied the soprano voice in present-day American composer Julian Wachner’s commissioned musical work based on WWI poet Rupert Brooke’s The Vision of the Archangels.
This fabulous rendition, featuring Blazikova, Dickey and other members of the Collective, can be found on YouTube. It includes Brooke’s moving words which might otherwise be lost in Blazikova’s fluid legato interpretation.
The first half closed as it opened, with more from the entire cast and the Carlo G. Manuscript.
The second act opened with Erik Satie’s Les Anges from Trois Melodies (1889), arranged for voice and theorbo by Jakob Lindberg. It was followed by melodic spirited and witty excerpts from Giovanni Bononcini’s Il Trionfo de Camilla (1696). Bononcini’s father, Giovanni Maria Bononcini, was also an accomplished composer with a fine mastery of counterpoint as illustrated in his Sonata 5 Op.6, played in perfect harmony, back and forth in call and response, by the Collective.
Excerpts from Alessandro Scarlatti’s Il Comodo Antonino brought this five-star concert to a climactic end with Dickey’s cornetto dovetailing Blažíková’s outstanding vocal range in a feast of musical and dramatic accomplishment, with the persistent bass voices of the viola da gamba and theorbo throbbing beneath.
Early Music Vancouver next presents Angela Hewitt playing Bach, Brahms and Scarlatti at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on March 12. Visit earlymusic.bc.ca for tickets and information.