| The New York Times | Corinna da Fonesca-Wollheim
Vocals and Instruments, Weaving a Bach Tapestry
The early-music vocal ensemble Tenet opened its season on Saturday evening at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church with resplendent performances of four Bach motets, conducted by Scott Metcalfe. The group has sung this richly virtuosic choral music in the past, but here, following a practice that scholars believe Bach employed, it joined forces with the period-instrument ensemble the Sebastians, with each instrumentalist doubling one vocal line. A soprano might be twinned with a violin, for instance; a baritone with a bassoon. Some of the tenor parts, with their difficult-to-match range, were doubled by an oboe da caccia, the scimitar-shaped “hunting oboe” of Bach’s time, with its distinct, throaty sound.
The result in the intricate contrapuntal passages resembled a tapestry in which each strand was shot through with fine metallic thread: Colors gleamed and sparkled; the pattern of the weave stood out vividly. The visualization of the music was further underscored by the spatial arrangement, with the players spread out among the singers.
While the instrumental doubling adds color and zest, it also tends to obscure the text. The words came through most clearly during the more musically homogeneous chorales at the close of a motet, such as “Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf” or “Komm, Jesu, komm.” At other times, the words — so important to Bach and so lovingly set — were nearly reduced to the clicks and hisses of consonants.
And yet there was no doubt that the spirit of these devotional, faith-affirming works was well served in this arrangement. This was especially true in “Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied,” a motet set to psalms that exalt singing itself as an act of worship. Here, the amplified multiplicity of voices, joined in a common purpose yet each maintaining its unique character, movingly expressed the sense of agency and responsibility of the individual that was so central to Bach’s Lutheran belief.
The motets were interspersed with the Sebastians’ buoyant performances of two instrumental works: Telemann’s “Ouverture à 7 in C” for three oboes and strings and Handel’s Trio Sonata in G (Op. 5, No. 4). Light and lean, they functioned like palate cleansers in between the gloriously rich Bach motets.Read Article
| The Boston Globe | Jeffrey Gantz
Green Mountain offers a rich feast for St. John
The evening began with an Usper sonata, the sackbuts’ deep-voiced chorale preceding the call and response of the violins and the cornetti. Everything was geared to the text: In...Read Article
| The New York Times | James R. Oestreich
Early Music and Its Future
The performances of both works were predictably splendid, and though you wished that the John Vespers had packed the church to capacity as the 1610 did, it drew a house seemingly...Read Article
| The Boston Musical Intelligencer | Tom Schnauber
Tenet’s Green Mountain Vespers
And what a glorious noise the Tenet ensemble made! From the outset, it was clear not only that these musicians were skilled technicians, but also that they loved the music...Read Article
| Bachtrack | Robert Levine
A fine Monteverdi Vespers from the Tenet Ensemble
The playing and singing were grand. Metcalfe goes for beauty of tone and gets it – his and second violinist Ingrid Matthews’ playing in the Sonata sopra Santa Maria...Read Article