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November 2007 Vol. 9 No. 2

AUB Spring Concert Enthralls Audience with Early Italian Music

Dr. Paul Meers conducting the choir at Assembly Hall

Italian music was celebrated in a delectable end-of-year concert held by the AUB Choir and Choral Society at Assembly Hall last May 7. Entitled "Early Music of Italy," the concert featured performances by the Ensemble Polyphonica, a new group of gifted Lebanese ensemble singers, and the Lebanese National Chamber Orchestra. The musical offering mainly included an enrapturing and nostalgic mix of Italian romantic and religious songs culled from the 15th and 16th century repertoires of such male and female master composers as Antonio Vivaldi, Isabella Leonarda, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and Claudio Monteverdi.

The evening program began with the Ensemble Polyphonica rendition of five love songs by Monteverdi, which included romantic songs like Lagrime d'Amante Al Tomba d'Amante (Tears of the Lover at the Tomb of His Beloved) and Ah! Dolente Partita (Ah, Painful Parting). Although it was an exquisite mélange of music, the Ensemble's performance was missing in finesse as in previous concerts; in the words of one audience member, it "lacked intelligibility as [they] remained soft on their vowels."

The Monteverdi pieces were followed by three religious hymns by Palestrina: Confitemini Domino (Give Praise to the Lord), sung by the men of the Choral Society, and Exultate Deo (Rejoice in God) and Sicut Cervus (Just as the Deer Longs), beautifully performed by the AUB Choir and Choral Society. Assembly Hall was then graced by the fine presence and virtuosity of a two-piece performance by world-renowned guest organist Freddy Eichelberger.

After an intermission, the highlight of the evening came with the AUB Choir and Choral Society's meticulous performance of two religious "Magnificats" from the mid-17th century by Isabella Leonarda and the renowned Antonio Vivaldi. Accompanied by the Lebanese National Chamber Orchestra, the last piece on the program, Vivaldi's Magnificat in G Minor, revealed a highly articulate choir, highlighted by the voices of soprano Lynn Zovighian, contralto Tara Maalouf, tenor Ziad Nehme, and baritone Mohammed Haidar.

The AUB Choir is made up of students who take a one-credit course in music and a group of non-student adult singers, the Choral Society. Their joint concert with the Lebanese National Chamber Orchestra and the Ensemble Polyphonica in May was directed by Paul Meers and organized by AUB's Fine Arts and Art History Department.