Cyprus Mail

Renaissance man

This coming Tuesday the Pharos Arts Foundation, together with the Institut Francais de Chypre, will present a concert by La Main Harmonique ensemble at the Shoe Factory in Nicosia, during which they will perform Orlando Lasso’s master-cycle Prophetiae Sibyllarum, consisting of 13 miniature, secular motets based on poems by Virgil, Horace and Seneca.

The ensemble, which is made up of eight singers, was founded in 2010 in the south-western Midi-Pyrénées region, France, and specialises in the exploration and performance of polyphonic masterpieces of the Renaissance and to convey this relatively unknown repertoire to the general audience.

The performance on Tuesday will be guided by the ensemble’s founder and artistic director Frédéric Bétous.

La Main Harmonique also concentrates on today’s music innovation by collaborating and forming valuable relationships with contemporary composers. Acting both as interpreters and creators, the members of the ensemble are particularly focused on grasping the essence of the composition and comprehending the objective of the composer.

Released in 2010, La Main Harmonique’s first recording Ockeghem & Compère, was highly praised by national and international press. Since then, the ensemble has appeared in many renowned venues and has performed in international festivals in France and elsewhere.

The group of musicians has also been involved in the 700th anniversary celebrations of the Palais des Papes in Avignon through a programme on Pétrarque with madrigals by Willaert and Rore. The programme, entitled L’Aura mia Sacra, was released in 2013 and established the ensemble’s undertaking in contemporary music through a commission to the French-Greek composer Alexandros Markéas. The willingness of its members to shed light on the analogies and correspondences between Renaissance polyphonic music and contemporary classical music has become one of the core components of La Main Harmonique’s identity ever since.

This identifying characteristic is manifested in the ensemble’s last project, which relies on musicological research as well as contemporary music creation: Focused on Carlo Gesualdo and his Sacrae Cantiones for six or seven voices – which was incomplete but has recently been restored by Marc Busnel from the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance in Tours – the project also includes original music by composer and contralto Caroline Marçot, commissioned by La Main Harmonique.

Lasso, the Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance, was inspired to write the music to be performed on Tuesday by the early Sibyls or prophetesses, which were archaic figures who encompass the Greek and Roman imagination.

Impersonating the link between man and his gods, they survived in Christian times as seeresses who prophesised the Saviour’s Realm.

These figures were the muse Lasso used to compose a cycle of 13 motets which became a masterpiece of Renaissance composition. The Prophetiae Sibyllarum were written in Munich during Lasso’s service for Duke Albert of Bavaria and remained in the Duke’s exclusive and secret property for many years until they were published only in 1600.

The concert will allow the audience to discover these rare motets, written on poems by Virgil, Horace and Seneca. The works of these authors became the wells from which the Renaissance men drew their ideas of wisdom, human values, and culture as the insight of natural human qualities.

The Pharos Arts Foundation and the Institut Francais de Chypre present the ensemble La Main Harmonique. December 16. The Shoe Factory, Nicosia. 8.30pm. €15/10. Tel 22-663871

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