The third edition of Festival Llums d’Antiga, L’Auditori de Barcelona’s major off-site festival, will be held between 12 and 21 May with five concerts featuring leading local and international performers.
With a view to showcasing neglected pieces that are rarely performed in major concert halls, the festival presents them to audiences in such natural historical settings as the Capella de Santa Àgata and the Sant Pau del Camp Monastery.
Among new developments this year, Festival Llums d’Antiga will be held in May, instead of February, so that audiences benefit from the milder spring weather. Two of the concerts, those by Nevermind and Cor Cererols, can be followed live via L’Auditori Digital.
This year’s programme comprises five concerts by artists specialising in period performances, following the theme of creation, the thread running through this season’s music, with programmes designed to encourage audiences to reflect on the context of musical creation. To speculate whether the work itself can be detached from social and historical circumstances and even those of its creator. To consider whether the musical legacy we know is a faithful reflection of what existed or rather a selection bound by the conventions of the time, and whether musicological research can cast light on unknown anonymous works.
With regard to this last question, special emphasis will be placed on reinstating certain female Baroque composers who have been unjustly forgotten, such as Francesca Caccini, Isabella Leonarda, Claudia Sessa, Barbara Strozzi and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre.
The spotlight will also be on the Catalan late mediaeval and Baroque musical heritage, with composers central to Iberian polyphonic music, such as Cererols, Joan Marc and Anselm Ferrer, and a performance of Missa de Barcelona.
Festival Llums d’Antiga will open on Wednesday 12 May at the Capella de Santa Àgata, with a performance by viola da gamba ensemble Hathor Consort, led by Romina Lischka. In recent years she has carried out extensive research into the literature on the instrument, having made her first appearance in Barcelona nearly 10 years ago as one of the ECHO Rising Stars. The ensemble will be appearing with Hana Blažíková, an exceptional soprano specialising in mediaeval, Renaissance and Baroque music, who regularly performs with leading early music groups and artists such as Masaaki Suzuki, Philippe Herreweghe, Ton Koopman, Christina Pluhar, Jordi Savall and Václav Luks.
The programme focuses on works by seventeenth-century female composers whose careers were made possible by favourable circumstances in the context of the age. Francesca Caccini and Barbara Strozzi were born into musical families, while Isabella Leonarda was the daughter of a noble family, and Claudia Sessa and Leonarda both entered convents.
The second concert, on Sunday 16 May, at the Sant Pau del Camp Monastery, features Qvinta Essençia. The Spanish vocal group has enjoyed wide success in Europe and is known for its performances of Renaissance polyphonic music, with a repertoire that extends well into the Baroque.
The ensemble will be appearing with Italian soprano Roberta Invernizzi, one of the foremost exponents of early music, in a programme dedicated exclusively to Isabella Leonarda.
Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704) is one of the few female composers of the Italian Seicento who has left us with a substantial volume of high quality works. The daughter of a prestigious noble family, she benefited from a humanistic education that also included music. She entered a convent at the age of sixteen and spent much of her life there, being relieved of some other duties, so that she could concentrate on composing music.
Her music is eminently sacred, largely dedicated to the Virgin Mary, a reflection of divine order in human affairs.
On Tuesday 18 May, at the Capella de Santa Àgata, audiences have a chance to hear the anonymous Missa de Barcelona. Dating from the mid-fourteenth century, this is one of the earliest complete European masses. Written for three voices, it includes the five standard parts of the Mass: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.
We know that these sections were not originally intended to be a single work and they may well have been the work of various composers. However, the Mass as a whole is beautifully coherent.
It will be performed by Ensemble Gilles Binchois, founded in 1979 by Dominique Vellard, one of the foremost groups in the field of mediaeval and Renaissance vocal music, with a repertoire ranging from the Notre-Dame school to Franco-Flemish polyphonic music.
Thursday 20 May, also at the Capella de Santa Àgata, will see a performance by a group that owes a great deal to the exceptional work of the French school and the creative energy of Paris. The combination of young, unpretentious talent that has raised the profile of popular early music is perfectly exemplified in harpsichordist Jean Rondeau, who is a member of this talented quartet.
Nevermind is especially interested in exploring all aspects of chamber music from the French Baroque period: fresh, vital music, overflowing with light and rich textures, dance tunes and lavish ornamentation, but which may also be tinged with melancholy.
Their performance will include such well-known pieces as the monumental trio sonata L’apothéose de Corelli, by organist and harpsichordist François Couperin, one of the outstanding composers of this genre. The group will also be playing sonatas by Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, the famous composer and harpsichordist.
The festival will conclude on 21 May with a performance by Cor Cererols, one of the youngest professional vocal groups in Catalonia, a reminder of the good health of choral music in this country, with new generations inspired by tradition and the Montserrat school.
The group, led by organist Marc Díaz, consists of young singers who already have solid experience behind them.
The three composers whose work features in the programme have links with the Montserrat monastery and choir school: Joan Cererols, the most important and influential early Baroque Catalan composer, studied there and was a disciple of Joan Marc, the musician who succeeded distinguished polyphonic composer Tomás Luis de Victoria as organist in the Descalzas Reales Monastery, Madrid. Although Anselm Ferrer lived in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, his work owes a great deal to the Renaissance polyphonic music he assimilated while he was in Rome.
Aleix Palau | 10 May 2021
Festival Llums d’Antiga showcases the finest Baroque composers from 12 to 21 May
Five concerts at the Capella de Santa Àgata and the Sant Pau del Camp Monastery with Hathor Consort and Hana Blažíková, Qvinta Essençia and Roberta Invernizzi, Ensemble Gilles Binchois, Nevermind and Cor Cererols.
Tickets for the festival have already sold out, however the concerts by Nevermind and Cor Cererols will be streamed via L’Auditori Digital.