Boston Musicians Toast Famous French Cathedral


Boston’s NPR station WBUR 90.9 has a Reims Cathedralwonderful preview of Tuesday’s concert in Reims Cathedral.

And the Camerata’s performance at the Boston Early Music Festival is reviewed in The Arts Fuse and on by Nicholas Jones, professor of English at Oberlin College and an avid amateur musician. Here is an excerpt:

“On Wednesday, the Boston Camerata presented a program of largely 14th-century music, also at Jordan Hall. In line with the festival’s theme of “Metamorphosis,” they called the program “The Morphing Beast” — a title perhaps fitting Hogwarts better than Jordan Hall. Opening the concert were Camerata artistic director and singer Anne Azéma and Shira Kammen on vielle and harp in a series of songs about animals and lovers. With Azéma’s clear and focused voice and Kammen’s highly expressive playing, these strange fantasies (about “the four-legged Narcissus,” the “Monosceros” and the “Unicorne”) became musical and cultural treasures as valued for their loveliness as their strangeness.

“Bringing medieval music to modern ears has been the work of the Camerata for years, and the second and larger section of their BEMF program revived one such project, the performing of the 14th-century manuscript poem/oratorio “Le Roman de Fauvel.” Almost twenty years ago, artistic director emeritus and founder Joel Cohen took on the musical and performance challenges of this strange beast-fable about a horse, Fauvel, who briefly leaves the stable to become the master of a court, woos the fickle lady Fortune (predictably, without success), has a roll in the hay with a temptress named Vain Glory, and—as in all scam fables— ends up in the gutter. Cohen has translated parts of the poem into lively English couplets, which he used to keep the story going (a sample from Fauvel’s glory-days: “The rich, the poor, the thin, the plump, / All wipe away at Fauvel’s rump”). The musical selections—also part of this amazing manuscript—were brilliantly performed by the multi-talented members of the Camerata, who brought out the drama, rhythmic intricacy, and tonal splendor of this highly sophisticated music. Azéma sang the role of Fortune, Michael Collver spectacularly represented Fauvel (and played the cornetto at times), Michael Barrett created a winsome Vain Glory, Steven Lundahl added voice, sackbut, slide trumpet, and recorder, and Kammen filled in with vielle and harp. Cohen narrated, sang, and played the lute. The presentation was visually enhanced with projections of illuminations from the manuscript, many of which the performers mimicked to good effect. ”