Delicious torment.

Sexy enough title? How disappointed they will be when they learn I’m talking about a concert. A classical music concert. A freaking Renaissance sacred music (mostly) choral concert.

Pomerium’s concert of Mannerist music last Sunday, October 19, at Corpus Christi was simply terrific. This music is stretched and unbalanced in the service of emotion and artificial (a term of approval) beauty. Dissonances and sudden shifts hold the listener over the abyss until they are resolved. Pomerium’s singers engaged the music with such confidence that every anxious, pained cry of despair or repentance rang clear. After a while it almost sounded too natural. I thought, two-thirds of the way through, that they should sing something like the famous Josquin “Ave maria” with its simple four-part perfection just to remind us how different this music by Lassus, Cipriano de Rore, Andreas da Silva, Giaches de Wert, and (of course) Carlo Gesualdo is. Writing that down, it seems like a complaint, but I mean it as a compliment. I’ve sung several of these pieces and I know how difficult, and how essential, it is to act like you’re convinced by each strange interval; otherwise there’s no hope of convincing the listeners. Alex Blachly’s notes and set groupings guided without domineering. And it all just sounded beautiful.

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