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Reviews

"Bring[ing] together some of the Boston area's most accomplished singers and instrumentalists." – Virginia Newes, Boston Musical Intelligencer

“An intimate and joyful musical experience.” – Mary Wallace Davidson, Boston Musical Intelligencer

“A most homogeneous, transparent, and balanced vocal ensemble…Bálint Karosi, the organist, turned out to be a most impressive musical interpreter…most illuminating.” – Christoph Wolff, Boston Musical Intelligencer

“A lovely program, beautifully conceived and brought to life.” – Christopher Greenleaf, Boston Musical Intelligencer

"A lovely program, beautifully conceived and brought to life." - Christopher Greenleaf, Boston Musical Intelligencer

"A very rich and rewarding program…period music enthusiasts will not want to miss it." - Thomas Garvey, The Hub Review

"A stand-out among the competitive and highly individualistic self-presenting groups around town, Exsultemus Period Vocal Ensemble has been gracing the Boston music scene with a good number of attractive programs each season…Exsultemus…simply glowed throughout this difficult and demanding program [of late 16th-century polyphonic Lamentations]. The group's comfort in the music and its delight in its unfolding was communicated to the audience, who rather liked what they heard." - Christopher Greenleaf, Boston Musical Intelligencer

 

Excerpted from "Nuanced Renaissance"

Sudeep Agarwala, MIT Tech (November 6, 2009)

It is only in its sixth season, but for its brief existence, period music ensemble Exsultemus has found its own unique voice in the sea of Boston's early music ensembles, having performed both locally and internationally in addition to their regular season, as well as on WGBH's classical performance podcasts. Specializing in both Baroque and Renaissance music, Exsultemus presented a thoughtful consideration of the late Renaissance on Friday, October 30, focusing in on the works of Josquin des Prez and his contemporaries… members of the ensemble managed subtly rich blends, adorning surprisingly rich cantus firmi with elegantly nimble counterpoint. Led by music director and countertenor Martin Near, Friday's all-male ensemble began with works of Josquin, traversing through both liturgical and secular works. It is to the credit of the ensemble that despite their radically different uses and intentions, each work maintained a sense of immediacy and presence. The liturgical Illibeata Dei virgo nutrix and Praeter rerum seriem fluidly transitioned between surprisingly sharp turns in time signature and texture. Secular works revealed surprisingly active antiphonal sections and innovative counterpoint work that resulted in surprisingly expressive and moving works. Particularly notable was Josquin's setting of lines from Vergil's Aeneid, a seething description of rumor as the swiftest of all evils. After intermission, the ensemble moved on to works by Josquin's contemporaries, again, affording individualized interpretations for each composer and piece. While a rich tenor line of the Nicholas Gombert's Musae, Iovis demonstrated current advances in contrapuntal writing during Josquin's era, Arcadelt's Laissez la verde couleur, a beautiful strophic setting of Mellin de Saint-Gelais's poem on Venus's mourning of Adonis. In both cases, the ensemble presented a unified thesis of the works: Although polyphonic, Gombert's work was stately and firm; Arcadelt's homophony was unified, yet movingly graceful in its pathos. Copious program notes provided ample explanation for the complex events of each piece.

Excerpted from "Exsultemus Channels Hamburg"

Christoph Wolff, Boston Musical Intelligencer (October 1, 2009)

The Exsultemus Ensemble opened its 2009-2010 Concert Season with an attractive program devoted to 17th- and 18th-century sacred music from the city of Hamburg. (Three other traditional German musical centers - Darmstadt, Leipzig, and Dresden - will be featured later this season.) The program focused on the three composers who defined Hamburg's musical life in their respective periods: Matthias Weckmann and Christoph Bernhard, the two star pupils of Heinrich Schütz, from the mid-17th century and Georg Philipp Telemann, the dominant figure in the 18th century. The juxtaposition of two distinct style periods proved to be most illuminating…The four singers formed a most homogeneous, transparent, and balanced vocal ensemble for the concluding motet after they had introduced themselves individually as soloists in the preceding works: Shannon Canavin with her radiant soprano, Thea Lobo with her clear mezzo, Steven Soph with his bright tenor and Ulysses Thomas with his flexible bass. The strings benefited from first violinist Tatiana Daubek's secure guidance; Gigi Turgeon (second violin) blended in well, and the continuo group with Audrey Cienniwa (cello) and Bálint Karosi (harpsichord) provided a solid foundation…the performers excelled in highlighting two striking culmination points in Hamburg's musical culture.

Excerpted from “Exsultemus: Live in Europe” CD Review
Kris Stanich, Renaissance Magazine (October 2007)

In this collection of performances taken from Exsultemus' European tour in early 2006, these otherworldly sounds receive a novel treatment, eschewing the crispness of the studio for the realism of a live audience of a evening service as it might have been performed in Aachen, Germany in the late sixteenth century features chant at its harmonious and haunting best; the group's counterpoint is crisp and superb, a paragon of musical exactitude. Each psalm set to music by early composers lives anew through their performances; “Regali natus de stirpe/ Psalm 109” opens the CD on a high note, echoing and rebounding from note to note, singer to singer with all the richness that a quartet of voices brings. Subsequent tracks generally maintain this lofty standard; the pride with which this group of young musicians from the Boston area comports itself is well-justified, considering the difficulty of many of the pieces…If one expects the pristine acoustics that typically accompany a recording of this kind, look elsewhere, but if one doesn't mind a little earthy realism to counterbalance the heavenly strains of the chant, Exsultemus: Live in Europe delivers in fine form.

Excerpted from “A tradition of love and death, reborn in Union Hall”
Sarah Darling, The Carlisle Mosquito (April 14, 2006)

Last Saturday, the stage was set at the First Religious Society for an extraordinary evening. Participants in this open ritual found themselves flung from century to century, immersed in intense emotion, tempered with intellectual fire…there really is nothing run-of-the-mill about listening to Renaissance choral music, especially when a group like Exsultemus comes to town. The Cambridge Society for Early Music presented this eight-member vocal ensemble to a full house for the third and final concert of their 2005-06 series. Listeners were presented with a fascinating program that combined musical excellence with a generous helping of food for thought…Particulars aside, this is breathtaking music — beautiful and elaborate, often employing two languages at once (Latin for the cantus firmus, the plainchant line that is the center of the composition, and French for the other contrapuntal lines that surround and magnify it.) And Exsultemus did a magnificent job bringing it to life — on the one hand, reveling in the architectural complexity, on the other hand, never losing sight of the overriding emotion. And despite nearly every work calling for a slightly different ensemble (the number of singers ranged from three to eight), the group held on to a stunningly unified ensemble “sound.”…It seems to me that the challenge of classical music is simple and constant, for both performers and listeners: How intensely are you willing to involve yourself? Exsultemus met that challenge so well, both in their performance and in their lovingly constructed program, that they made it easy for us to meet it too.

Excerpted from “Report from Boston”
Gary Freeman, Goldberg Magazine (August/September 2005)

The magnificent carved oak interior of the chapel at Phillips Andover, a private high school in Andover, Massachusetts, was the site of a concert by the local group Exsultemus. It's a relatively new group, freshly coached by Peter Phillips of The Tallis Scholars. The arrangement of pieces by de la Rue, Binchois, and Agricola was designed to recreate a hypothetical Mass setting in a Burgundian Court in the late 15th century. Frequent intervals of plainchant, expertly rendered by the group's resident musicologist Eric Rice, broke up the choral pieces. This group of eight is self-conducted, a politically democratic advantage to be sure, but less of an advantage in musical matters. Subtle nods and quietly sounded pitches by Rice kept the group on track. Luckily these singers are all very good – in pitch, interpretation, and verbal and musical articulation…Exsultemus has a strong, focused sound not unlike The Tallis Scholars. The group prefers tight French vowels, emulating the pronunciation possibly favored by the Burgundians and also used by the Orlando Consort. Basses Brian Church and Richard Giarusso maintained a smoothness and overriding gentleness in their lines that was really thrilling, and the two altos Thea Lobo and Aaron Russo offered just the right amount of inner tension at all the right moments. Details like cross relations, short, imitative passages, and delicate leaps were handled with great expertise. And a rollicking section of parallel harmonies – in faubourdon style – in the Credo from Pierre de la Rue's Missa L'homme armée held together firmly. Some of the group's final cadences (Agricola's Sancte Philippe Apostole and la Rue's Delicta Juventutis ) couldn't have been more beautiful.