The Orlando Consort Comes to Town

Famed Renaissance music group disbanding by June so this will be their last concert for Milwaukee audiences.

By - Nov 9th, 2022 04:34 pm
Orlando Consort. Photo by Eric Richmond.

Orlando Consort. Photo by Eric Richmond.

The outstanding artists presented by Early Music Now always serve up an aural feast. “Listening to Pictures,” the Orlando Consort’s program on Saturday, November 12, will deliver not only captivating listening but also a stunning visual experience, displaying the synergy between music and visual art that lay at the heart of Renaissance culture.

Regarded as one of Europe’s top interpreters of vocal repertoire from the 11th to 16th centuries, the four-voice Orlando Consort is based in Great Britain, and tours extensively throughout the world. “Listening to Pictures” is the latest thematic performance project developed by members of the Consort: countertenor Matthew Venner, tenors Mark Dobell and Angus Smith, and baritone Donald Greig. This performance will be the last opportunity for a Milwaukee audience to enjoy the superb vocal skills of the Orlando Consort; the group plans to disband in June 2023, after 35 years of performance.

Professor Tim Shepard, Professor of Musicology at the University of Sheffield, advised the Consort as the “Listening to Pictures” program was developed. His research spotlights the popularity of visual representations of music in Renaissance Italy. According to Shepard, “Church interiors were enlivened by altarpieces presenting biblical and heavenly musicians, placed in conjunction with the ritual song of the liturgy. The interior spaces of palaces and private houses, in which musical recreations were routine, were adorned with paintings depicting musical characters and myths of the ancient world, and with scenes of contemporary festivity in which music played a central role. Musical luminaries and dilettantes commissioned portraits symbolising their personal and social investment in musical expertise and skill. Such visual representations of music both reflected and sustained a musical culture.”

Saturday’s concert uses a multimedia format to illustrate the visual art/music connection, projecting Renaissance paintings, prints, and illustrated artifacts as the Consort performs unaccompanied sacred and secular music composed in the same era. While Italian artists like painters Carlo Crivelli and Fra Angelico and sculptor Luca della Robbia created the visual masterpieces, the composers represented in the program are generally Northern Europeans who were pioneering new musical styles. Among the best-known:

French composer Guillaume Du Fay (1397-1474) exemplifies the emergence of musicians whose primary focus was composing. His career took him throughout Western Europe, including a stint with the Papal choir in Rome.

The pre-eminent European composer in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, Franco-Flemish Josquin Desprez (c. 1450-1521), wrote almost exclusively vocal compositions, including 20 masses that survive. Another Franco-Flemish composer, Loyset Compère (c. 1445-1518), is known for his composition of motets and chansons.

“Listening to Pictures” will be performed at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts at UW-Milwaukee, 2419 E. Kenwood Blvd. Tickets are available online.

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