The concert at san Paolino yesterday evening fulfilled our hitherto unheard requests for a carol service combined with (excerpts from) “Messiah. It was truly the cherry on the icing of our advent cake preparation.
In the church where Puccini was organist, and where his “Messa a Quattro voci” was first heard, the Coro Polifonico di Lucca conducted by its founder and choirmaster Egisto Matteucci, performed the following programme which was neatly divided into three appropriately connected sections.
Here are a few excerpts I recorded from the evening’s concert:
From the “old music” section:
From the Anglo-Saxon (and welsh) carol tradition including two Rutter arrangements.
From the Christmas-tide oratorios:
Something about the choir: the Polifonica Lucchese’s choirmaster and conductor Egisto Matteucci graduated in violin, singing and composition at Lucca’s conservatoire, the Istituto Musicale Luigi Boccherini of Lucca where he has been involved with the latter’s choir and orchestra. His work as a teacher began at the Istituto where he chairs the Choral Practice, Theory and Solfeggio department. Between 1976 and 1993, he was head of orchestral training and he has also directed the conservatoire. In 1967 Matteucci founded the choir which sang so wonderfully for us yesterday evening: the “Polifonica Lucchese” with whom he has given concerts throughout Italy.
Matteucci has also promoted various Lucca music initiatives such as the Festival of Sacred Music, the voci bianche (children’s choir), thus helping to spread musical education in schools – an area sadly neglected in the Italian scholastic system (as, indeed, it is the UK too).
From 1972, with the encouragement Herbert Handt (see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/a-thanksgiving/ ), founding artistic director of the Lucca musical association, Egisto has conducted many great choral works (some of which we have attended – most recently Beethoven’s Mass in C major) such as Brahms’ requiem, Bach’s Christmas oratorio, Faure’s requiem and Mozart’s Waisenhaus Mass.
Egisto is noted for his impish sense of humour. When San Paolino’s parish priest presented him that evening with a commemorative plate to thank him for his services to the parish Egisto exclaimed “but it’s empty!” And when one of his ex-children’s choir members sang as soloist in the French Noel, Noel carol he commented “she now even drives her own car to my choir practises.”
It is, therefore, somewhat poignant that Egisto is not in best of health and that in the evening’s programme there was a heart-felt appeal for new members to join this superb choir in order to replace those men with “hair that is now turned silver or even gone altogether”.
It is truly a sign of the times that, with so many people rushing about and supposedly able to only give the shortest sound bite to so many encounters, Egisto’s life’s work in the Polifonica Lucchese choir should be thus vulnerable. If you can sing in tune then joining this choir might really change your life!