Saint Paul Pioneer Press Reviews Consortium Carissimi

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Rob Hubbard of the Saint Paul Pioneer Press was at Consortium Carissimi’s opening concert last evening, Friday, February 24, 2012. This is this morning’s review of our Lenten Oratories concert:

Carissimi singers bring a little hedonism to Lenten lessons

By Rob Hubbard
Special to the Pioneer Press
Posted:  02/24/2012 11:15 PM

The Christian season of Lent signifies giving up things, like abstaining from something you enjoy or keeping decorations more minimal and muted. So perhaps enhancing your Lenten experience would be contradictory to its purpose.

But if you want an ear-pleasing history lesson about the sound of 17th century Lenten services, Twin Cities early music group Consortium Carissimi offers a great opportunity this weekend.

Oratories and motets by Italian composers Bonifazio Graziani and Giacomo Carissimi provide the basis for a program that eschews solemnity in favor of engagingly delivered biblical tales. This group’s rich voices and strong instrumental support make them enjoyable enough to almost be a source of guilt.

Graziani’s version of the Adam and Eve story might inspire eye rolls with its account of the birth of patriarchy, but it was splendidly sung Friday night at Minneapolis’ Our Lady of Lourdes Church, particularly by serpent soprano Lisa Habeck and the dusky-voiced  Eve of Marita Link.

Though presented in oratorio fashion, the characterizations were nevertheless admirably fleshed out, almost operatic in the amount of passion poured into each phrase. The parable of the prodigal son was a quartet supported chiefly by the subdued sound of viola da gamba and theorbo (ancestors of the cello and guitar, respectively), but it nevertheless felt quite theatrical, especially when soprano Heather Cogswell conveyed the youthful abandon and resigned contrition of the title character.

Yet, the concert’s most powerful moments came when the choir kicked in for the composers’ most complex and luxuriant lines, interweaving their voices in thick harmonies. It was the kind of Lenten experience that could leave you feeling as if you’re gaining so much more than you’re giving up.

Who: Consortium Carissimi

What: “Lenten Motets and Oratories” by Giacomo Carissimi and Bonifazio Graziani

When and where: 7:30 p.m. today, Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, 1900 Wellesley Ave., St. Paul; 2 p.m. Sunday, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 1 Lourdes Place, Minneapolis

Tickets: $15-$5, available at 612-636-7518 or

Capsule: Lent isn’t supposed to have pleasures this rich.

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