April 7–May 1, 2015
Before Bach celebrated music written in the 16th and 17th centuries, before Bach and Handel began composing in earnest. A vast and colorful spectrum of music was heard, including Renaissance sacred vocal works, secular songs and madrigals, and innovative instrumental pieces. L’Arpeggiata opened the monthlong focus with two concerts: an evening of ardent opera arias by Venetian master Francesco Cavalli, and a concert of daring improvisations on the music of Purcell. Les Violons du Roy, conducted by Richard Egarr, offered more Purcell with the English master’s complete opera Dido and Aeneas, with soprano Dorothea Röschmann as the eponymous heroine, and selections from his other theater works. A galaxy of early music stars was showcased in solo concerts. Viola da gamba master Jordi Savall performed poignant music by French and English composers, and harpsichordist Kristian Bezuidenhout revealed the brilliance of English, German, and French keyboard music. Vocal music held a central place in the festival. In addition to performing sacred works of Josquin and Byrd in Weill Recital Hall, The Tallis Scholars led a Weill Music Institute workshop with young artists from around the world, culminating in a spectacular concert at the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I Fagiolini sang Renaissance and early Baroque songs and added some whimsy to the proceedings when they brought some audience members onto the stage for a bit of fun. To conclude the focus, Monteverdi’s mastery of sacred and secular vocal music was showcased by the English Baroque Soloists and The Monteverdi Choir, conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, in the Vespro della Beata Vergine and his groundbreaking first opera, L’Orfeo.