Concert Features Rediscoveries of Antonio Bencini’s Lost Christmas Oratorio and Antonio Gianettini’s Magnificat, in Collaboration with the Academy of Sacred Drama
Soloists are Soprano Linda Tsatsanis, Mezzo-Soprano Kate Maroney, and Tenor Alex Guerrero, with Members of the American Classical Orchestra Chorus
Founder and Artistic Director Thomas Crawford leads the American Classical Orchestra (ACO) in its second of four Manhattan performances this season with a special holiday program featuring members of the ACO Chorus on Thursday, December 14 at 7 PM at Corpus Christi Church. The concert offers a selection of Italian works including the rediscovery of Antonio Bencini’s mislaid Christmas oratorio Gesù Nato from the shelves of the Vatican archives, as well as the retrieval of Antonio Gianettini’s Magnificat and five psalm settings. The program will begin with a brief presentation by Thomas Crawford describing the works and offering orchestral excerpts.
Featured soloists are Canadian soprano Linda Tsatsanis, hailed as “ravishing” (The New York Times) for her performance at the Boston Early Music Festival; mezzo-soprano and CBC and Naxos recording artist Kate Maroney, a voice and vocal pedagogy teacher at both Mannes School of Music and Yale University who appears this season in David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of MetLiveArts; and tenor Alex Guerrero, praised by The New York Times for his “apt comic timing” in the role of Ali in André Gretry’s Zémire et Azor with the ACO, and a featured singer in many the orchestra’s performances.
Thomas Crawford will next lead the ACO in a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor with the ACO Chorus on March 7, 2024, at Alice Tully Hall.
Gesù Nato, A Christmas Oratorio
Thursday, December 14, 2023, 7 pm at Corpus Christi Church, 121 St. between Broadway & Amsterdam
American Classical Orchestra
Thomas Crawford, conductor
Linda Tsatsanis, soprano
Kate Maroney, mezzo-soprano
Alex Guerrero, tenor
Members of the ACO Chorus
Antonio Gianettini: Five Psalms (Deus in adjutorium, Dixit Dominus, Confitebor tibi Domine, Beatus vir, and Laudate Pueri Dominum)
Antonio Gianettini: Magnificat
Antonio Bencini: Gesù Nato
Considered one of the most talented composers of his era, Antonio Gianettini was a 17th-century Italian organist, singer, and composer. His operas and sacred music were appreciated during his lifetime in both Italy and Germany. In 1686, Gianettini took the post of maestro di cappella to Francesco II d’Este, Duke of Modena, and remained in that post for much of his life. His Psalms are written for four-part chorus with string accompaniment. The first of five performed at this concert is Deus in adjutorium, a short introductory prayer drawn from Psalm 69 and often used to begin liturgical prayer services, such as evening Vespers. The four psalms that follow are traditionally used in the Roman Catholic rite of Sunday Vespers and on major feast days, like Christmas. Gianettini’s version of the Magnificat, also known as the Canticle of Mary, is a prayer of praise to God found in the Gospel of Luke. Often used in the daily prayers of the Catholic Church during the Advent Season, it has been set to music by many composers. ACO’s performance of Antonio Bencini’s Gesù Nato marks what is likely the modern premiere of the full work. This lost Christmas oratorio manuscript by the little-known composer was likely premiered in 1742 in Bologna, before it was shelved at the Vatican Library for three centuries. The work, which features vocal soloists, a choir, and an orchestra of trumpets, oboes, and strings, centers on the shepherds who witnessed the Nativity. The oratorio was composed during the time Bencini served as maestro di cappella at the Chiesa Nuova (The Roman Oratory) from 1705-1743. Thereafter he served as maestro of the Cappella Giulia at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome until his death in 1748.
This performance is a co-production of the ACO and the Academy of Sacred Drama, founded in 2013 by ACO violinist and scholar Jeremy Rhizor. The Organization is dedicated to Baroque oratorio that draws its stories from biblical tales and the lives of saints.
Tickets, priced at $75, $55, and $35, are available at www.aconyc.org, or by calling at ACO at (212) 362-2727, ext. 4.
For details of American Classical Orchestra’s 2023-24 season, click here.
About Thomas Crawford
The American Classical Orchestra’s Artistic Director and Founder Thomas Crawford is a champion of historically accurate performance styles in Baroque, Classical, and Early Romantic music. He founded two Connecticut orchestras: the Fairfield Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Old Fairfield Academy, the period instrument offshoot of the Fairfield Orchestra, renamed the American Classical Orchestra in 1999. With the Fairfield Orchestra, Crawford commissioned numerous works by composers, including John Corigliano and William Thomas McKinley, and collaborated with artists such as Joshua Bell, Vladimir Feltsman, Richard Goode, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, André Watts, and Dawn Upshaw. He also conducted the world premiere of Keith Jarrett’s Bridge of Light at Alice Tully Hall, subsequently recorded on the ECM label. An accomplished composer, organist, and choirmaster, Crawford won the prestigious BMI composition award for his organ work Ashes of Rose, which premiered at the American Guild of Organists. A passionate activist determined to bring the beauty of period music to a wider audience, Mr. Crawford received a Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth award from the National Endowment for the Arts, in recognition of the ACO’s dynamic music outreach to New York City schoolchildren. A Pennsylvania native, he holds degrees in organ performance and composition from the Eastman School of Music and Columbia University.
About American Classical Orchestra
Founded in 1984 as the Orchestra of the Old Fairfield Academy, the ensemble was renamed the American Classical Orchestra in 1999. Founder and Artistic Director Thomas Crawford established its new and permanent home in New York City in 2005. It is now the City’s only full-scale orchestra dedicated to performing 17th, 18th, and 19th century music on period instruments. Described as “simply splendid” by The New York Times, ACO players are the foremost in their field, consisting of artists who also perform with such major ensembles as Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Handel and Haydn Society, and the New York Philharmonic. Its principal players are Faculty members at The Juilliard School, and the ACO works closely with students enrolled in the School’s Historical Performance Program. The American Classical Orchestra Chorus, comprised of professional vocalists from the New York metro area, joins ACO for larger productions. By playing music on original instruments and using historic performance techniques, ACO strives to recreate the sounds that audiences would have heard when the music was first written and performed. The Orchestra and its “supremely skilled musicians” (Theater Scene) have won critical praise for its recordings, educational programs, and concerts, including appearances at Alice Tully Hall and in Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and for a sold-out 25th anniversary performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
For more information, visit aconyc.org.