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Assessment: Ars Lyrica’s season-opener a surprising mixture of music and historical past – Houston Chronicle


Richard Savino enjoying the theorbo in an Ars Lyrica efficiency

Photograph: Pin Lim

For the Ars Lyrica Houston fall/winter season, the theme is “sounding legacies,” all within the spirit of gratitude for the return to dwell performances. Inventive director Matthew Dirst and govt director Kinga Ferguson clarify in this system that the season “pays homage to sounding legacies of varied sorts, from that of Cecilia, our patron saint, to the enduring pastoral trope in poetry and music.”

And what a stirring night time of homage it was for his or her first return to in-person efficiency.  For the Sept. twenty third season opener in Interest Heart’s Zilkha Corridor, the outstanding program featured “Welcome to All of the Pleasures” and “Hail, Vivid Cecilia!” by the seventeenth century English composer Henry Purcell, with a further efficiency of “Concerto in C Main” from “Alexander’s Feast” by the German-British Baroque composer George Frideric Handel.

These are celebratory items that emphasize a spread of feelings from the enjoyment of playful whimsicality, to extra solemn moments of adoration and appreciation. However the frequent denominator is a reverence for the sublimity of creativity and the inspiration of Saint Cecilia, who reportedly surreptitiously sang to her Christian Lord even whereas marrying a pagan. He finally transformed, and each had been persecuted and put to dying, thus sealing Cecilia’s significance to musicians, significantly to late seventeenth century English musicians akin to Purcell. Her feast day (Nov. 22) was historically been an opportunity to carry out new compositions to have a good time music.

Whereas Houston is fortunate that there’s a wide selection of classical music to take pleasure in, Ars Lyrica is exclusive in its dedication to early music, significantly utilizing devices from the time interval and specializing in “music in its authentic context” with programming that enables for uncared for masterpieces together with well-known works. They’ve a core ensemble of interval string, wind, and continuo gamers, together with devices that appear unique to modern audiences. The place else are you able to see Richard Savino play theorbo (an instrument in the lute household) and guitar, or Deborah Dunham play the imposing violone, a big, stringed instrument? There was even some timpani motion from Craig  Hauschildt, including excessive drama to an already eclectic playlist.

For instance, admired Baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, who can be 1st violinist and concertmaster for the efficiency, performs a 1660 Guarneri violin created in Italy that’s on everlasting mortgage to her from the Philharmonia Baroque Interval Instrument Belief. That is the caliber of musicians that play with Ars Lyrica, whether or not within the orchestra, or these singing the lyrics to those operatic works.

It’s fairly beautiful to learn via the credentials of those musicians, after which notice that the majority of them are primarily based in Houston. It’s a humiliation of native riches.

It’s laborious to take your eyes off the musicians and their devices; they appear in a divine rapture. And why not? Dirst not solely performs the harpsichord, he additionally conducts the orchestra, whose amiability is palpable to the viewers. 

Ars Lyrica

What: ‘Pink Priest of Venice’ shall be carried out 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12 and ‘A Marian Feast’ shall be carried out Dec. 13

The place: Zilkha Corridor, Interest Heart, 800 Bagby

Particulars: 713-315-2525; arslyricahouston.org


The singing was superlative, from the haunting and unforgettable alto Jay Carter to the attractive sopranos Julia Fox and Alexandra Gorman. And who can neglect Cecilia Duarte, or the Texas-based Stephen Ash and Bass-baritone Christopher Besch?  And 22-year-old College of Houston pupil Thomas O’Neill? All had been excellent, and the echoing verses and cascading lyrics had been maybe most spectacular when your entire ensemble was singing collectively, mixing in essentially the most beautiful means. 

You won’t be in Salzburg or Vienna or London, and even the seventeenth century, however generally it positive felt prefer it. To steal from this system’s lyrics, it was an evening of “pleasures that delight/of each sense.” 

Doni Wilson is a Houston-based author.


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