March 12, 2005 – Review

The Renaissance Consort

By John von Rhein
Reprinted from the Chicago Tribune

Teamwork of an intimate sort marked the performances of rarely heard Renaissance and early Baroque viol consort music given by the Chicago period instruments ensemble Ars Antigua Saturday in Quigley Chapel, Rush and Pearson streets.

Joining bass viol player (and ensemble director) Jerry Fuller were the Irish gambist Liam Byrne, the Canadian Joelle Morton and the American Erica Rubis. These expert musicians presented Flemish and French pieces from the 15th and 16th centuries on a set of Italian Renaissance viols, later switching to English viols for a group of early 17th Century consort works by British composers.

Just keeping all those gut strings in tune on a frosty afternoon was a challenge, but the soft, mellow resonance of the nine instruments soared in the tranquil little chapel with its vaulted ceiling and exquisite stained glass windows. The music’s buoyant, intricately meshed rhythms spoke across the centuries.

Tiny instrumental gems by Orlando Gibbons, William Byrd, Thomas Tomkins and Giovanni Coprario (ne John Cooper) from the golden age of English consort music proved a cheery foil to the rather dour Flemish works heard earlier. Best of all were two selections from Christopher Simpson’s “The Monthes,” whose skipping rhythms and lively imitative writing sounded like the handiwork of an English Vivaldi.
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