#ROSSI400

In 2023 we celebrated Salomone Rossi, a highly respected Jewish composer and principal violinist in the court of Mantua, working alongside Claudio Monteverdi in the decades either side of 1600. Today, it is Rossi’s famous colleague who enjoys the spotlight, with Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (premiered in Mantua in 1607) celebrated as the first great opera. Its scoring requires a sizeable group of immensely sensitive musicians who were asked to play with “much invention and variety” and Rossi would have been an inspiring leader in such an ensemble – a first among equals. No doubt because of this, he was one of a select number Jews permitted by the ruling elite not to wear a marker on his clothing.

THE INNOVATOR

In the same year as the premiere of Monteverdi’s opera, Rossi published the first of four collections of instrumental music that would set a new precedent for pieces in trio texture – two treble instruments and a harmonised bass line. Years later, having composed a large number of secular songs and madrigals as was fashionable throughout Europe, Rossi published another groundbreaking volume: Ha-shirim asher li-Shlomo or The Songs of Solomon (a pun on his name and The Song of Solomon). In it he set psalms and other sacred Hebrew texts to music in a contemporary style, something that had never been done before.

A 400TH YEAR CELEBRATION

Exactly 400 years ago, this novel experiment in cultural synthesis is a key moment in our shared history that deserves celebration. Alongside selections of Rossi’s instrumental music, our programmes paired sacred and secular vocal pieces by Rossi with settings of the same texts by other 17th-century composers in their own vernaculars, including Heinrich Schütz, William Byrd, and Claudio Monteverdi. It was a celebration not just of the communicative and political power of language, but also of Rossi set deservedly in the company of the famed composers of his time.

The 2023 chapter of this project was generously supported by The Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, The Golsoncott Foundation, Shoresh Charitable Trust, Ruth and Martin Dunitz, Jeremy Lewison, Tony Stoller, and Vassilina Bindley.

2023 PERFORMANCES

7.30pm Wednesday 13 December
at St John’s Smith Square, SW1P 3HA
A Baroque Hanukkah feat. La Vaghezza

Vache Baroque singers and the award-winning ensemble La Vaghezza united to mark the Hanukkah story and celebrate 400 years of Salomone Rossi’s groundbreaking publication ‘The Songs of Solomon’.

This concert was recorded live by the BBC and broadcast on Radio 3 as the Lunchtime Concert on Friday 15 December, presented by Hannah French.

7.30pm Saturday 11 November
at Belsize Square Synagogue, NW3 4HX
Salomone Rossi’s World

An intimate programme of madrigals and solo songs by Rossi and his contemporaries. As with all our events, this concert was open to people of all faiths or of none.

6pm Saturday 4 November
at The Vache, HP8 4SD
VBFriends Dinner Concert

A Jewish-Italian culinary feast by acclaimed chef Adam Nathan was interspersed with a musical menu of sacred and secular vocal pieces by Salomone Rossi and his contemporaries from across Europe. 

7.30pm Saturday 9 September
at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, NW8 7HA
Salomone Rossi’s World

The concert was held in memory of Andy Stoller (1949-2022)

An intimate programme of madrigals and solo songs by Rossi and his contemporaries. This event was free to attend and open to people of all faiths or of none

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To contextualise the secular vocal music composed by Salomone Rossi in the decades before the publication of The Songs of Solomon, we created two madrigal music videos – one by Rossi, the other by the English composer Thomas Weelkes (a fan of Rossi’s who died in 1623).

Birdgang Ltd dancers tell these stories of love and loss through Ukweli Roach’s choreography, backed by five Vache Baroque singers, a chitarrone, and a harpsichord. Filmmaker Hannah Lovell completes the creative team.

PROJECT ARTISTS

VACHE BAROQUE

Vache Baroque is proud to count among its network of musicians the finest singers and players of Baroque-era music in the UK. From English, Italian, and French opera, to cantata, solo song, and madrigal repertory, artistic director Jonathan Darbourne invites musicians whose talents match the demands of our programmes.

For the concert at St John’s Smith Square, the team of singers was

Amy Wood soprano
Betty Makharinsky soprano
Clara Kanter mezzo-soprano
Jonathan Darbourne countertenor/director
Bradley Smith tenor
Nick Pritchard tenor
Jolyon Loy baritone
Tristan Hambleton bass-baritone

Throughout the project and at St John’s Smith Square, we were joined by

Kristiina Watt theorbo/lute
Kate Conway viola da gamba
Jonatan Bougt theorbo/lute
Sam Jenkins tenor

LA VAGHEZZA

La Vaghezza are an award-winning trio sonata ensemble playing music from the 17th and early 18th Centuries, with a special interest in the unpredictability, extravagance, originality and freedom found in 17th-century Italian music.

Their debut CD ‘Sculpting the Fabric‘ (2021) features three instrumental movements by Rossi.

“Played… sensually, racingly, poignantly” ★★★★★ Klassik

“Enviable instrumental quality… a total freedom in tone” ★★★★★ On.Mag

“Keeps the listener continuously on the edge of their seat. A great debut album” ★★★★★ Rondo

BIRDGANG LTD

BirdGang Ltd is an award-winning UK-based creative company with Hip Hop dance art forms as the foundation of their DNA. They choreograph, perform, teach and produce avant-garde dance content for stage, theatre, TV, film and live events.
With roots in Hip Hop culture and extensive experience in musical theatre and commercial dance forms, they are known for their high-quality, impactful content, performances and educational sessions. Their clients include large brands like Nike and Bose, artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Jungle and Kyan, theatre companies such as Sadler’s Wells, Stanley Arts, and students from around the world.