The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: From Palestrina to Part, the pioneering early music vocal group The Hilliard Ensemble will disband into silence in 2014. Plus, the date for the next Handel Aria Competition is set for July 17 during this summer’s Madison Early Music Festival. | January 9, 2014

ALERT: Mark your calendars and datebooks. The second annual Handel Aria Competition — with an encore appearance by the winner last summer — that is sponsored by local business owners Dean and Orange Schroeder will take place on July 17, 2014 as part of the annual Madison Early Music Festival. Last summer, the “slam down” format proved to be a lot of fun, as you can see for yourself if you revisit my coverage with these links:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/classical-music-qa-organizer-dean-schroeder-talks-about-the-inaugural-handel-aria-competition-at-this-years-madison-early-music-festival-on-monday-night-july-8/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/classical-music-the-ear-finds-himself-in-handel-himmel-and-enjoys-the-first-handel-aria-competition-at-the-14th-annual-madison-early-music-festival/

Handel etching

By Jacob Stockinger

The pioneering early music vocal group the Hilliard Ensemble (below) has sounded another sour note to open the new year in classical music.

The ensemble, founded in 1973 and celebrating its 40th anniversary this season, will disband in 2014 after one last world tour, according to a story on NPR’s excellent classical music blog “Deceptive Candence.”

hilliard ensemble portrait

One has to wonder: How many more unfortunate events like this will we see as the Baby Boomer generation — which also fed and fostered the early music revival — ages and falls ill, then decides to retire or perhaps even dies?

Already we have seen some string quartets like the Guarneri and Tokyo  (below), decide to disband, although the venerable Emerson Quartet has decided to continue on after cellist David Finckel retired and was replaced by Paul Watkins, formerly of the British Nash Ensemble. The Hilliard Ensemble has only one of its original members still singing.

tokyo-qt

Unlike so many other early music groups, the Hilliard Ensemble specialized in late Medieval and Renaissance music rather than the more popular and well-known Baroque music and composers. Their specialities included works by Giovanni da Palestrina, Carlo Gesualdo, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Tallis and Josquin Des Prez plus a host of generally unknown names (like the work by William Cornish in the YouTube video at the bottom.). But they also did perform Baroque music and especially made headlines when they revealed parallels between certain Bach works on the CD “Morimur.”

hilliard ensemble singing

The Hilliard Ensemble was also eclectic and adventurous. In its extensive catalogue of recordings, mostly on the innovative and inventive ECM label – an ideal home for the Hilliard Ensemble — it also performed music with best-selling New Age jazz saxophonist Jan Gabarek as well as the complete Bach motets. And they also recorded several works by the living popular Estonian composer Arvo Part.

Here is a link to see their impressive and extensive discography and impressive user review at amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dclassical&field-keywords=Hilliard+Ensemble

And to top it off, the members of the Hilliard Ensemble themselves set the tone for receiving this news with their calm acceptance of the end of their era and their mission, successfully accomplished.

Here is a link to the NPR story:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/12/19/255572105/leaders-in-early-music-face-a-final-curtain-with-grace


3 Comments »

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  3. The Hilliard Ensemble certainly had a good long run and put out some great recordings. But then there are people like Jerry Hui coming along, who are going to be introducing Renaissance music to a new generation. And I know the Rose Ensemble in the Twin Cities is attracting huge crowds with its eclectic early-music concerts.So I wouldn’t assume that interest in this earlier period of music is going to die out. And since CDs are on the wane (we are told), people will be getting their recordings in other formats anyway.

    Comment by Ann Boyer — January 10, 2014 @ 12:26 am


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