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MUSIC REVIEW

Young Performers Festival provides a BEMF bonus series

By Matthew Guerrieri
Globe Correspondent / June 17, 2011

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In addition to its official programs, the Boston Early Music Festival features a full slate of fringe concerts at various venues around town. Early Music America is presenting a particularly ambitious fringe series this year in the form of a Young Performers Festival: concerts by 14 college, university, and conservatory early-music groups from across North America.

Monday’s three concerts were nicely varied in repertoire and approach. Under the direction of Mitos Andaya, the University of Georgia Collegium Musicum, a 15-voice choir of both music majors and amateurs from the UGA community, sang a nifty selection of works by 16th- and 17th-century women composers; alternating between the full ensemble and smaller groups, the program traced the gradual convergence of the quick-change expressiveness of secular love songs and the grander lines of sacred music. The culmination was a lively and estimable reading of an eight-part “Magnificat’’ by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, manifold and idiosyncratically epic, its rapid-fire juxtapositions realized with sweet-toned enthusiasm.

The Stony Brook Baroque Players, an undergraduate ensemble directed by Arthur Haas and Robert Warner, brought a travelogue program sampling Baroque dialects — German, French, Italian, English — ranging from Luigi Rossi’s intimate cantata “Pianto della maddalena’’ (a declamatory monologue given taut intensity by mezzo-soprano Katherine Kaiser) to Handel’s vigorously fashionable Sinfonia in B-flat major (HWV 339). The playing cultivated virtues of the modern early-music movement showing as much of a reaction against Romantic luxury as the 20th-century avant-garde: crisp quickness, astringent sound, lissome phrasing.

On the other hand, luxury suffused the Harvard Early Music Society concert performance of Jean-Joseph de Mondonville’s one-act opera-ballet “Bacchus et Erigone,’’ the Ancien Régime’s inimitable extravagance on ample display. The HEMS, under the direction of Edward Elwyn Jones, presented an opulent front: a stylish quartet of soloists (Claire Raphaelson, Ulysses Thomas, Owen McIntosh, and Jacob Cooper), who also danced a casually stepped “Tambourin’’ finale; a sprightly, polished 14-voice chorus; and rich musical décor from the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra.

The increasing prominence of historical-performance programs in music schools can be seen as symptomatic of increasing specialization. But Monday’s concerts also allowed an appreciation of the different ways such early music can become part of student life — from Harvard’s well-appointed edification to Stony Brook’s professional development to UGA’s community music-making.

The Young Performers Festival continues throughout the week, with the Festival Ensemble (a select, 34-member group directed by Scott Metcalfe) concluding the series on Saturday.

Matthew Guerrieri can be reached at matthewguerrieri@gmail.com.

EARLY MUSIC AMERICA YOUNG PERFORMERS FESTIVAL University of Georgia Collegium Musicum; Stony Brook Baroque Players; Harvard Early Music Society

At: First Church, Boston, Monday (continues through Saturday; schedule at www.earlymusic.org/early-music-america-young-performers-festival)