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Roman Carnival in the Morgan Library

New York
Morgan Library Auditorium
11/16/2023 -  
Vincenzo Calestani: Damigella tutta bella
Sigismondo d’India: Dialogo della rosa – Piangono al pianger mio – Langue al vostro languir – Giunto a la tomba
Francesco Turini: Dove ten’vai
Biagio Marini: La vecchia innamorata
Andrea Falconiere: Folia echa para mi senora
Girolamo Frescobaldi: Se l’aura spira
Dario Castello: Sonata Quarta
Anibale Gregori: Mai non disciolgasi
Angelo Notari: Intenerite voi
Bellerofonte Castaldi: Quella che tanto
Galeazzo Sabbatini: Folgori Giove

I Gemelli: Zachary Wilder (Tenor), Stéphanie Paulet, Leonor De Lera (Violins), Louise Pierrard (Viola da gamba), Annabelle Luis (Violoncello), Nacho Laguna (Theorbo, Baroque guitar), Pablo Fitzgerald (Lute), Marie‑Domitille Murez (Harp), Yoko Nakamura (Harpsichord, Organ), Emiliano Gonzalez Toro (Director/Tenor)

E. Gonzalez Toro, Z. Wilder & I Gemelli in Morgan Library
(© Stella Dong)

The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night.
William Shakespeare

I went to a restaurant that serves breakfast at any time. So I ordered French Toast during the Early Baroque Period.
Steven Wright

Say farewell to John Dowland/Adieu, M. Lully/Their songs and ballets are silly and wooly./Buongiorno Italia! Tunes, words, madrigali;/Tuttis which are bouncing/From start to finale.

One can’t write a proper review for I Gemelli. From the first buoyant notes by tenors Emiliano Gonzalez Toro and Zachary Wilder, this writer felt like an antediluvian Swifty. Ready to dance and sing and prance through the Morgan Library Auditorium. Yes, the musicians were excellent. But these tenors? Chubby and lean, singing in Monteverdi style thirds, or solos, or playing with the emotions of 16th Century Italy.

They could have been Penn and Teller or Abbott and Costello. If Abbott and Costello had Heldentenor chops!

The lyrics were hardly Petrarchian. Instead Tasso and Rinnucini or Monteverdi’s librettist Alessandro Striggio surrendered their liturgical stuff for the fun of revelry, lost love (not really), feminine beauty, pastoral ditties.

Did the words echo Elizabethan poetry? Perhaps. But Shakespeare (and John Dowland) got their ideas from Renaissance Italy. Their comedies and songs were jolly and jaunty enough. But they lacked what I Gemelli offered. A commedia dell’arte in tunes and harmonies.

The composers are obscure in 2023 (how many names are recognizable above?), yet they were famous enough in their own times to throw away the fiercely complex contrapuntal lines of Musica Nuova and Musica Antiqua and set themselves to have a festival della canzone.

And that was how I Gemelli operated. The title of the concert (and their disc) is “A Room of Mirrors”, and that could mean anything. Possibly how the composers mirrored their Paterfamilias Claudio Monteverdi. Possibly the mirrors of the two voices in what Purcell called “echo songs.” Or perhaps the mirror of the first song by Vincenzo Calestani, where the last verse mirrors the first. (The words are about drunken lovers losing their lady of the night.)

The two tenors–sometimes together, sometimes echoing each other–were actors in the style of Italian farce. The strolled together, danced, paid homage to each other and their consort. The voices were resonant, even in the dissonance of a piece by one Angelo Notari, also about an aristo woman being wooed.

I had to Google the name Sigismondo d’India for one truly emotional lament, The Arrival at the Grave. This was so exquisite, so utterly gorgeous, it must have come from Monteverdi. No, but D’India was a follower. As were the others, obviously.

A. Gregori, G. Frescobaldi* (*1619 Engraving by Claude Mellan)

Onto the consort. Above all, their shifting colors. We had two violinists, a cello a dark viola da gamba. We had a harp, and Yoko Nakamura playing organ and harpsichord, sometimes together. Added to this the most soft and delicate guitar played or plucked by Nacho Laguna.

This had the unlikely effect of an Impressionist chamber piece. The voices had the timbre of verismo opera.

The only complaint? Even with two encores, I Gemelli’s program was too short. An intermission with a few bottles of ancient Pinot Grigio and more music would have made for a Roman carnival about which Benvenuto Cellini himself might have relished.

Harry Rolnick



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