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Quigley substituted the Ricercar sopra Sancta Maria by Monteverdi's contemporary Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) for the original movement which suggests additional instrumental voices. Frescobaldi's gentle yet sonorous writing for male voices provided an interlude of utter tranquility. The beautiful singing of the Seraphic Fire male contingent offered one of those indelible musical moments -- seemingly frozen in time.

The group's outstanding solo voices were distinguished by idiomatic Baroque style and beauty of vocal utterance. Matthew Tresler's appealing tenor had remarkable flexibility in the high register in an ornate Baroque aria with swirling lute accompaniment. In a duet for two sopranos Karen Neale's stunning high, pure tones contrasted vividly with the darker sound of Mellissa Hughes. (In this extraordinary duo Monteverdi foreshadows Mozart's operas and even the bel canto writing of Bellini.) Tenor Derek Chester tossed off roulades of coloratura in firm, secure tones. The dusky sound of mezzo-soprano Misty Bermudez and the agile, other worldly timbre of countertenor Ian Howell (of the renowned male vocal group Chanticleer) turned solo cameos into star turns.

The sparse instrumental texture presented Monteverdi in his purest form. David Dolata provided elegant, beautifully integrated support on lute. Indeed he is a real virtuoso on that instrument. The superbly inventive organ continuo was masterfully played by Scott Allen Jarrett, one of Boston's leading choral conductors.

Members of Seraphic Fire
Members of Seraphic Fire

The final Magnificat is the summation of a unique score. In alternating solo and choral passages both spiritual and invigorating, Seraphic Fire brought sounds of the heavens to a grandly sacred space. Quigley's inspired leadership culminated in a finale that approached sublimity! An unforgettable performance of an uplifting, life changing masterpiece!

Copyright © 5 November 2005 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA



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