Tuesday, February 20 , 2018, 12:30 am | Fair 42º


University Singers Leapfrog Three Centuries

Music from the 16th and 20th centuries will be conducted by Helena von Rueden and Adam Kurihara

The University Singers: Men’s and Women’s Choruses will present a concert called “Cantiques” (French for “canticles” or “sacred songs”) at 8 p.m. Thursday in Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State St.

The Singers, an interesting pair of ensembles made up of music majors and nonmajors, are under the overall direction of professor Michel Marc Gervais.

The conductors of the concert will be Helena von Rueden and Adam Kurihara, who lead their choruses in a program of sacred music drawn from two widely separated eras of composition: roughly 1550 to 1650 and 1880 to 1980.

The early baroque selections draw on the works of Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), Jacob Arcadelt (1514-57), Giovanni Pierluigi Sante called “Palestrina” (1525-94), Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) and someone called “Biebl,” whom I have not been able to trace. From the “modern” period come selections by American Randall Thompson (1899-1984), Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) and Leo Delibes (1836-1891).

Any concert that boasts a piece by Monteverdi already has a lot going for it. In the 1960s, I worked on a remarkable production of Monteverdi’s opera, The Coronation of Poppea, but I was mad for Mahler and Beethoven in those days and didn’t take much interest in such antique music. Now, I put this composer in the inner circle of the all-time greatest.

I am ready to put Palestrina into that circle as well, once I have heard more of his music. So far, I know him best from Hans Pfitzner’s 1915 opera about him — which, of course, contains none of his music. But if church music from the Counter-Reformation is your standard of perfection, then Palestrina is the man for you. The stuff I have heard by him — some motets, a couple of masses — is uniformly sublime.

Except for those who long to hear great American choral music, who will naturally show up for Thompson, the item of most interest in the modern section is a little-known Messe Brève for equal voices and string quartet, by Delibes, famous for his graceful, polished ballets (Coppelia) and operas (Lakme). No doubt the Fauré will be lovely as — well, as his serenely perfect Requiem attests, unbelievers often write damned fine religious music.

A donation of $15 for general admission and $7 for students will be collected at the door. For more information about music at UCSB, click here or call 805.893.7001.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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