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Desert Chorale mines rich French Baroque period

The Santa Fe Desert Chorale will perform pieces representing the French Baroque period.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A mere mention of the Baroque conjures the music of Bach and Vivaldi.

But the French contributed mightily to this rich genre through an idiosyncratic and distinct writing style incorporating a system of ornamentation and trills.

The Santa Fe Desert Chorale will embrace this unique variety of Baroque with “In the Court of the Sun King: Shining a Light on the French Baroque” at Santa Fe’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel on Saturday, July 20.

The program follows the germination of the genre 100 years before Bach and Vivaldi via the Italian influence through its Versailles flowering.

Marc-Antoine Charpentier penned one of the first oratorios with “The Denial of St. Peter,” said Desert Chorale artistic director Joshua Habermann.

Charpentier studied with the composer Giacomo Carissimi, bringing a touch of the Italian to his music.

‘There are all these wrenching harmonies,” Habermann said.

Favored by the Palace of Versailles, François Couperin’s “Leçons de Ténébres” (“Lessons of Darkness”) is a program centerpiece featuring three singers trading off two parts accompanied by a cello and organ. The work developed from the polyphonic lamentations settings for the tenebrae service of Renaissance composers. It was applied allegorically to the three days of mourning for Christ between his crucifixion and resurrection.

“It’s really sort of virtuosic,” Habermann said. “It really shows off the ability of our singers to step out of the ensemble and go solo.”

Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville’s “The Lord Reigns” hails from the end of Louis XIV’s reign.

“The music was becoming very gallant,” Habermann said. “It’s very challenging and we’re using more instruments; two violins as well as cello and continuo.

“The whole thing is set up chronologically,” he said of the program. “You can see the whole range of the French Baroque.”

The instrumentalists include Stephen Redfield, violin; Dana Winograd, cello; and David Solem, organ. George Case will give a free pre-concert talk 90 minutes before the concert.

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