Campus & Community

Boston Camerata, Harvard Choral Fellows to present Renaissance luminaries at Memorial Church:

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Music drawn from brilliant court of 15th and 16th century Ferrara, Italy

The Boston Camerata’s 2002-03 season concludes on March 14 at 8 p.m. with a colorful musical anthology titled “O Triumphale Diamante: Music for Ferrara 1400-1500.” Music for this concert is drawn from the brilliant court of 15th and 16th century Ferrara, Italy, and includes works by Guillaume Dufay and Josquin des Près. Music director Joel Cohen and the Camerata musicians are joined by the Harvard University Choral Fellows for this one-time performance to be held at Memorial Church. Assistant Professor of Music Sean Gallagher will deliver a lecture before the concert at 7 p.m. Tickets for ‘O Triumphale Diamante’ are $20, $30, and $40, and may be purchased by calling the Harvard Box Office at (617) 496-2222.

“O Triumphale” – the Camerata’s newest program – was created in response to a commission by the Gardner Museum in 2001, and this performance marks its in-town series premiere. It will feature several longtime Camerata members, including Michael Collver (countertenor, cornet); Steven Lundahl (sackbut, trumpet, recorder); Robert Mealy (vielle, harp, lira da braccio); Karen Walthinsen (vielle, organetto); and Anne Azéma (soprano), who are well known to audiences in the Boston area and beyond. Twelve members of the Harvard University Choral Fellows, resident choir of the Memorial Church under the direction of Murray Forbes Somerville, will further enrich the vocal ranks.

Ferrara, though less famous than Florence or Venice, nurtured a rich outpouring of artistic creativity in the 15th and 16th centuries. Much of this fertility was due to the existence of highly motivated patronage, specifically by four members of the ruling Este family. Niccolò III, Leonello, Borso, and Ecole I d’Este sought to engage Europe’s finest musicians for their courts, and they were so successful that to some extent, early Renaissance history is defined by the singers, instrumentalists, and composers who were drawn to Ferrara.

Although only a fraction of the music created at Ferrara exists today, this concert aims to offer a representative selection. One work, in particular, symbolizes Ferrara’s eminent standing: Josquin’s “Hercules” Mass, of which the Camerata will perform the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Curiously, the thematic basis for this Mass is the name of the Duke who commissioned it. The words “Hercules Duke of Ferrara” are transformed into pitch syllables to create a musical theme, which is then varied in many ingenious ways.