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Music Reviews : Venetian Vocal Music At Baroque Fest

June 28, 1986|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer

An abundance of riches continues to surface at the Nakamichi/UCLA Baroque Festival.

The third evening concert Thursday night of the weeklong series in Schoenberg Hall Auditorium brought forth intelligent and text-worthy singing from three expert interpreters of the genre--Judith Nelson, Mary Rawcliffe and David Thomas--supported beautifully by Frederick Hammond on harpsichord and continuo organ and Paul O'Dette on the lute.

In a program called "Vocal Chamber Music of 17th-Century Venice," these five offered a baker's dozen pieces by Monteverdi, plus items by his contemporaries and successors: Barbara Strozzi, Giovanni Rovetta, Alessandro Grandi, Tarquino Merula and Francesco Cavalli.

It was a generous agenda, but one which never lagged. Its high points--Nelson's achingly heartfelt singing of the Lamento di Romilda from Cavalli's "Serse"; Rawcliffe's stoic re-creation of Monteverdi's "Quel sguardo degnosetto," and two duets as sung by the women, Grandi's "Spine care e soave," and Monteverdi's "Romanesca," which achieved that blend of expressive, pure tone and meaningful word-projection toward which singers of every generation work and connive.

And it really hit no low points, for every item was treated to tasteful reconstruction, rhythmic buoyancy or quiet motion, clarity and balance of parts and textual pertinence.

The one distraction was Thomas' self-conscious emphasis on his own singing of low notes: He seemed to treat any and all notes below the staff like hurdles to be jumped. In the process of displaying his jumps--and, it must be said, making unpleasant sounds--he quite lost any continuity of musical line. Disappointingly, too, the large audience appeared almost as infatuated with Thomas' little feats as was he.

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