Review: Cantata Profana Captures the Death of a Saint

Jan 22, 2019 369

BY: Anthony Tommasini

Imagine a Renaissance-era nun, a mystic in the throes of dying, uttering her visions and predictions in sporadic, rapid-fire bursts while novices stand guard trying to understand and write down her words. This is believed to be what happened to Saint Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, who died in Florence in 1607. The Italian modernist composer Salvatore Sciarrino suggests what the extraordinary ritual must have been like in his hushed, twitchy and radically spare-textured “Infinito Nero: Estasi di un Atto” for soprano and eight instruments, composed in 1998.

The excellent and adventurous young musicians of Cantata Profana gave a rare and quietly riveting performance of Mr. Sciarrino’s strange piece on Friday at St. Peter’s Church in Chelsea. Since 2013, Cantata Profana has been presenting shows, as they call them, which are often semi-stagedand typically juxtapose very old and very new music. The players placed Mr. Sciarrino’s piece at the end of an 80-minute meditative show they titled “Visions of Silence.”

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