“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” quoth Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But would an ensemble of any other name sing as sweet? The Rose Ensemble’s current program, A Rose in Winter, looks at first glance like it might be a play on The Lion in Winter over at the Guthrie, but the two could scarcely be more different.
The theme of this concert offering is a floral tour of florid chant and polyphony from Hildegaard to Palestrina. A few instrumental selections are interspersed and a few carols inserted, plus the world premiere of A Brighter Ray by Victor Zupanc. The Zupanc piece feels out of place in the program, both thematically and in terms of aesthetics. It does have some interesting moments, but seems deprived of the sorts of madrigalisms that would make the text come alive.
Some of the attractions of the program include a loving, breathtaking rendition of Hildegaard von Bingen’s O frondens virga, Dufay’s Flos florum, and a stellar delivery of Jean Mouton’s Ave Maria – virgo serena. The program notes were more mixed – while those credited to Dr. Honey Meconi were both interesting and edifying, several uncredited notes seemed to be derived more from Wikipedia than any reading of vaguely recent scholarship. It’s a small quibble in the nature of things, but the Rose Ensemble sets high expectations for what grows in their programs.