Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Early music menu planner

Early Music America, the professional association/advocacy group for performers of medieval, Renaissance and baroque music, has published "Touring Early Music Ensembles," a directory listing 33 U.S. and Canadian ensembles, their 2010-11 season programming and – purportedly for bookers, but also interestingly for onlookers – their fees.

For "$15,000 or more," the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston, with its conductor, Harry Christophers, will perform Handel's "Messiah." For $15k or less, Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland-based chamber orchestra, offers the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610; "Fire and Folly: Myths of Love and Betrayal," with soprano Sophie Daneman; and "Come to the River: an Early American Gathering." Sarasa, a strings-with-continuo ensemble, with violin soloist Elizabeth Blumenstock, will do Vivaldi’s "Four Seasons" for less than $5,000.

Among the big names: Anonymous 4, offering 13th-century Spanish songs, a reprise of "A Medieval Ladymass: English chant and polyphony," and a Christmas-carol program (fee: "Ask for a quote"). . . . The Baltimore Consort, Scottish, Spanish and French programs, "Gut, Wind and Fire: Instrumental Music, 1500-1700," and Christmas carols and dances ($7,000-$9,999). . . . The Boston Camerata, seven programs ranging from "Carmina Burana" (the 13th-century original) to early Americana ($5,000-$15,000). . . . Piffaro: The Renaissance Band, music of Elizabethan England, 16th-century Spain and Flanders, and European Christmas tunes ($7,000-$9,999). . . . The ARTEK baroque ensemble, four different Monteverdi programs (including the Vespers) and "Graveyard Music (multimedia baroque program on themes of death and sorcery)" ("$15,000 or more"). . . . The string quartet I Furiosi, "Crazy: From Venice to Bedlam, the sounds of madness unleashed," "Intro to the Body: Playing doctor with I Furiosi," and "Addicted to Love: When you can’t get enough of a good thing" ($3,000-$4,999).

I Furiosi wins the prize for frisky program themes and titles. More typical are snapshots of musical history, related to a specific manuscript or music of century-X in locale-Y; song-lyric thematic programs (love, death, hunting, carousing, etc.); music from the time and place of some famous non-musician (Dante, Boccaccio, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Rembrandt, Gainsborough); explorations of forgotten musics (many pre-modern Jewish, one early Yiddish; several Euro-Arab and Euro-Turkish; even one Hawaiian); a dusting of greatest hits, usually of the Renaissance; a Christmas program; and, often overlapping with Christmas, early American hymnody.

Glancing through this brochure is like grazing through a cookbook of an exotic, probably delicious cuisine. (One group calls itself Les Délices; another, the Repast Baroque Ensemble.) What’s not to want to like about outfits called Ciaramella, La Donna Musicale, Galileo’s Daughters, Gravitación or The Spirit of Gambo? Ensemble Lucidarium might seem a bit intimidating (lucidity can be); The Catacoustic Consort, a bit . . . what? . . . Goth?

I, for one, am now primed to spend evenings with "Stylus Phantasticus, the Fantastical Style of 17th-century Italy," "Macchine: Science and Music from the Age of Leonardo da Vinci," "Queen and Huntresse! English and French Renaissance songs about the game of courtship," "The Coal-Seller’s Concert Hall: Music from Purcell’s London," "Aery Entertainments," "Kehi Kinnor: a Jewish Wedding in the Renaissance," "The Gigg is Up: Music in Shakespeare’s England" – even "Graveyard Music," under the right moon.

The undead-tree version of the directory:

Peruse, then lobby your local impresario.