In 1610, after transforming his musical style with what he called the seconda pratica, or "second practice", and creating the first musically significant opera, Claudio Monteverdi had a "retro" moment, composing a six-part Mass of gloriously intricate polyphony in the style of 16th century masters like Josquin and Palestrina.
To clinch the connection, he based it on musical motives drawn from a motet by another 16th century composer, Nicolas Gombert, In illo tempore and it was Monteverdi's Missa In illo tempore and Gombert's motet that formed the central thread of the three parts of The Song Company's radiant presentation in the acoustically miraculous crypt of St Mary's Cathedral under their new artistic director, Antony Pitts.
Standing in a circle on the terrazzo floor under the central vault, the building amplified and echoed the interweaving lines with iridescent resonance, building to a peak of intensity in the elaborate counterpoint that closes the Gloria and Credo of the mass that was quite magical.
The three parts of the concert followed an Easter theme – Tomb, Hades and Throne – and each involved a short piece by Pitts himself and music by English Renaissance composers William Byrd and William Mundy and Australians Elliott Gyger and Alice Chance. Gyger's Creator alme sideru used an old plainchant as the basis for an elaboration in sensitively tonal style which evolved towards densely voiced chords of rich dissonance, using this composer's characteristic sensitivity to vocal capacity.
Chance's piece, And the Lord said, Fiat Lux, sung by a treble subgroup from behind the audience, explored darker sounds and caressing astringent suspended dissonances to create the idea that with the creation of light comes life and pain. Pitts' music expanded classic polyphonic vocal textures to incorporate modern harmonies within a broadly consonant framework and an original and sensitive understanding of the voice.
As new director, Pitts continues and honours The Song Company's special expertise in the glories of the Renaissance under previous director Roland Peelman, while also bringing a distinct and cogent personal perspective. This was a concert of rare and transcendent beauty.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/the-song-company-review-a-concert-of-rare-and-transcendent-beauty-20160401-gnvr0v.html#ixzz46cx5oIxd