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An excellent Mass opens Boston Early Music Festival

Bury this, it's pretty lousy.


Mass by Claudio Monteverdi.

Directed by Andrew Parrott.

Part of the Boston Early Music Festival.

Sunday, May 28.


THE FIFTH BOSTON EARLY MUSIC festival began this year with a performance of a reconstructed mass by Monteverdi, Solemn High Mass for the Feast of S. Maria della Saulte. Andrew Parrott conducted the choir and instrumentalists, some of whom played period instruments.

The performers were uniformly excellent, as were the instrumentalists -- a pickup ensemble, constructed for the Festival. Standout performers included bass soloist Jan Opalach, tenor Martin Kelley, and Paula Chaeauneuf on lute.

The mass was reconstructed by Parrott and Hugh Keyte from music of Monteverdi and various contemporaries. The music was beautiful, presenting several joyous and even ecstatic moments, including a sudden chromatically descending melody half-way through the mass, and a complementary ascending chromatic melody at the end. Variety was also present throughout the music, which ranged from lighthearted, energetic fanfares to highly dramatic declarations to soft, sweet melodies. The performance was serene -- perhaps too serene. At a length of over ninety minutes (with no intermission), many moments seemed to drag.

St. Paul's Church, located in Harvard Square, was a fine choice of location for the concert. Grandiose, large, and beautiful, with acoustics to match, the cathedral was an appropriate setting for the mass.

The Boston Early Music Festival occurs in Boston every two years; it draws early music specialists from all over the world. The Festival featured performance of early music works (including an opera of Mozart, considered "early" music this year), lectures, demonstrations, and master classes.