I went to a concert by Voices of Ascension on 2/9. It was all 20th century music from Spain. My favorite piece was the first, a set of songs for chorus and organ called *Rosarium Beatae Virginis Mariae* by Pablo Casals. So lovely, so pure, so sublime. The chorus captured the sound of actual HOLINESS. It was startling.
Next up, a couple of OK pieces for violin (the complete program is below). It gave a nice bit of variety to break up the choral pieces with chamber music, but these pieces were nothing to write home about. Then some more choral pieces by Morera and the first half ended with the piano version of de Falla's *El Amor Brujo,* played by Vanessa Perez. She played with power and style, she was a delight.
More lovely Casals at the start of the second half, another Morera and a couple of pieces by Manuel Oltra. Soprano Vanessa Vasquez and pianist Michele Scanlan performed a couple of pieces by Granados, including an aria that I swear I heard Kiri te Kanawa perform back in the 80s. Ravishing, and sung with gorgeous vocalism by Vasquez. This girl knows what she's doing, and her instrument has a lovely color. It was especially exciting to hear a soprano really dig into her lower register. You know how the people love that.
The last piece was the Granados *Cant de les estrelles.* This piece has quite the history, something about Granados playing the premiere and the score being lost for 90 years, probably found in someone's cedar chest in Waukegan or similar. The piece itself did NOT ring my bell. It kept approaching the Land of Schlock but never quite got there. I'm very happy in the Land of Schlock, as you may know. When faced with the choice of Montessori or Mantovanni, I will choose Mantovanni every time.
It opened with a long flashy piano solo, played by Granados scholar Douglas Riva. I got the feeling it was supposed to be opulent, but it was merely aimless. It was a drama without direction, and I've seen a few of those. It was clearly looking for something - - it found some amusing things along the way, but I'm not convinced it found what it was looking for. It helped when the organ came in, and especially when the chorus came in, but the whole thing went on a bit too long for my taste. I wasn't quite rolling my eyes, but I was CLOSE. It had a big luscious finish, which helped.
*Rosarium Beatae Virginis Mariae,* Pablo Casals
"Romanza" and "Escena religiosa," Enric Granados
"Ave Maria" and "El rossinyol" Enric Morera
*El Amor Brujo,* Manuel de Falla
"Recordare, Virgo Mater" and "Nigra sum," Casals
"Cant a la vinya," Morera
"Eco" and "Preludio," Manuel Oltra
"La maja y el ruiseñor" from *Goyescas* and "Gracia mia," Granados
*Cant de les estrelles,* Granados