By JENNIFER HAMBRICK
The 26th season of Early Music in Columbus began Friday with the refined sounds of Renaissance Europe.
Award-winning early-music vocal duo Asteria’s performances of 15 thcentury Burgundian chansons transformed the Pontifical College Josephinum’s St. Turibius Chapel into the private chamber of a French chateau.
This is no small feat. The vaulted arches of St. Turibius Chapel call to mind the cavernous Gothic cathedrals of the high Middle Ages and have acoustics to match. The gentle voices of soprano Sylvia Rhyne and tenor and lutenist Eric Redlinger could have been engulfed by the ample reverberance.
But with the gentleness of their sound, as well as their ever-changing positions onstage, the musicians invited the audience into their intimate space to experience tender, courtly love poetry confessed in song and, between musical numbers, read from a heart-shaped, velvet-covered book.
Rhyne’s voice never lost its depth of sound or exquisite control. Redlinger provided a chivalrous shadow throughout, often in a slightly less focused sound than Rhyne’s and always deferring to her in their vocal balance.
Redlinger’s lute accompaniment was the barest palimpsest beneath it all. Though beautiful, the lute sound’s modesty at times almost entirely suppressed the third voice of the three-voice contrapuntal texture.
The performance was replete with moments of superb artistry. The ending of Asteria’s performance of Estienne Grossin’s Va T’ent Souspir floated to the heavens. In Robert Morton’s Vive Ma Dame, Rhyne and Redlinger brought out the song’s counterpoint without threatening the direction of the musical line.
Rhyne’s solo performance of Deuil Angoisseux, Gilles Binchois’ setting of poet Christine de Pizan’s lament for her husband, was a model of controlled anguish calling to mind the famed laments of widows Ariadne and Dido.
The duo’s encore presentation of Claudin de Sermisy’s Languir Me Fait ended the concert in a lovely whisper.