The artisticdirection makes no compromise on standard, and each Sagra has a specific theme — not just a collection of
concerts by ensembles andorchestras travelling across Italy. This year the theme is Light from on high, from the verse of a
Franciscan chorus: 'Light from on high fount of splendor/in thee, sweet love, is our consolation.' Every other year, there is a worldwide competition for a choralscore, the 'Francesco Siciliani Award', named after the Sagra's founder.
The competition is promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture. During the last six years, over six hundred scores have been received — a clear sign that 'spiritual music' is alive and well all over
the world. This year the theme of the competition was the Kyrie. Finally, an internationally known ensemble, the St Jacob'sChamber Choir, was in residence. In this report, I focus on three of the Sagra's salient moments.
Firstly, the concert held on 15 September 2016 in the Upper Basilica of Assisi with
the beautiful Giotto frescoes.
The concert was entirely devoted
to Mozart: Kyrie for soloists, chorus andorchestra, K 341, Misericordias Domini for chorus and
orchestra K 222, and Requiem for soloists, chorus and orchestra K 626. All three pieces are
in D minor. Although Giotto and Mozart are several centuries apart, the
somber and severe D minor tonality made the frescoes and the music a good
fit. In the pit, the Orchestra da Camera di Perugia; the soloists were Elisaveta
Martirosyan, Ewa Gubańska, Emanuele D'Aguanno and Adriano Gramigni —
a cast of international standing. The chorus was the St Jacob's ChamberChoir of Stockholm. Gary Graden had the baton. The Basilica was crowded and the audience enthusiastic.
Secondly, on 16 September, in the
Basilica of San Pietro in Perugia, there was the choral concert and final selection
for the Francesco Siciliani Award. The concert program included mostly choral pieces by Mozart,MacMillan and Pärt as well as Martin, Thompson and Barber. The international jury, chaired by Hellmuth Rulling, included Arvo Pärt (deputy chairman), Gary Graden (director of the St Jacob's Chamber Choir), Pietro Caraba (Director of
Perugia Conservatory) and Alberto Batisti (Artistic Director of the Sagra). Three competing composers were finalists, and their different Kyries
performed at the end of the first part of the concert: Julian Darius
Revie (Canada), Carlo Alessandro Landini (Italy) and Steven Helien (Germany). Revie and Landini were awarded ex equothe jury's prize, and Helien a prize by the music reviewers attending the concert.
On 18 September, the final concert
of the Sagra was held in the Teatro Morlacchi in Perugia. Under the baton
of Juraj Valćuha there were one hundred and twenty musicians: the Haydn Orchestra of Trento and Bolzano, the Slovenian Philharmonic Choir directed by Martina Batić, and soloists
Adriana Kohütková, Julia Gersteva, Ludovit Ludha and Paul Gay. The
program included Janáček's Missa Glagolitica and Dvořák'sSymphonyFrom the New World.
The Dvořák is very well known;
Valćuha and the orchestra gave a verypassionate reading of it. The Janáček, a rather special composition, is not often performed. The key moments of the Mass are followed in thelibretto, but on the one hand, the score emphasizes Moravian roots and
traditions, and on the other, the love story between the composer and Kamila Stösslová underlinks the religious celebration.
Juraj Valćuha, the soloists, chorus and orchestra gave a very chiseled
reading full ofattention to details. The audience was enthralled.