Wednesday, 20 December, 2023 at 8:00 pm
De Bijloke, Ghent, Belgium
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Juliane Moghimi, Hannoversche Allgemeine (2 May, 2019)
Breaking the habit – that’s what the ensemble Stile Antico had set out to do for their A Cappella Week concert, and that promise was fulfilled from the first note. What a sound! Radiant, absolutely focused, extremely rich in overtones and earthy at the same time, it effortlessly filled the every corner of St. Mark’s Church. The twelve singers from London are absolute Renaissance specialists. Apparently effortlessly, they slipped through the highly complex polyphony of the sixteenth century, in different formations, because the number of singers at that time was adapted to the space for which the music was written. Even in the tuttis, each individual voice was identifiable: just as in the music each part has equal importance, so in their performance Stile Antico avoided sonic homogeneity. The result was a completely transparent and – in the best sense – heterogeneous sound, that broke away from the familiar and therefore invited all the more attention.
“Breaking the Habit” was the name of the program that Stile Antico brought with them, dedicated to the great women of the Renaissance. Monarchs such as Margaret of Austria, Mary and Elizabeth I significantly promoted the music of their time as patrons. At the same time in the Renaissance, compositions by women were published for the first time, which need not shirk comparison with those of Pierre de la Rue or William Byrd .
The only modern piece in the program came at the end. It was written from the British composer Joanna Marsh, born in 1970, and is titled “Dialogo and Quodlibet”. While the men in the foreground conducted an artistically composed discussion of music theory, the women performed melodic fragments by Maddalena Casulana in the background of the chancel. Finally, there was a spatial and harmonious rapprochement of the two sexes. The last tone and thus the last word went – how could it be otherwise? – to the ladies.