Modern composers have largely abandoned the traditional link between springtime and love, possibly because it strikes them as either quaint or mundane, or because they find new or more topical subjects more interesting. But the connection is written into the planet’s DNA, as well as the complex web of joy and pain that emerges when humans are involved.

St. Mary Schola, the choir and period instrument ensemble led by Bruce Fithian, are offering a brisk overview of the subject, as it was treated between Medieval and Baroque times – from, roughly, the 12th through 17th centuries – in “Love Conquers All,” which opened on Friday evening at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It will be repeated through Tuesday at churches in Falmouth and Portland.

Fithian’s ensemble, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this season, is a magnificently polished group, with enough first rate singers, among its roster of 14, to provide a slate of characterful soloists when the music demands them. The program, built largely around madrigals and pastoral cantatas – works in which the interplay between solo voices and the choir are crucial – kept that aspect of the group’s strength firmly in the spotlight. Indeed, nearly every singer had at least one brief solo spot.

The choir began, for example, with a troubadour song, “A L’entrada del tens clar” (“At the Beginning of the Bright Season”), in which each of the five verses was sung by a soloist, with the choir providing the robust refrain. Was that an ahistorical approach? Possibly. Troubadours tended to be solo practitioners, but the music is flexible enough to bear a wide variety of interpretations, and the performance here was stunning, so why quibble?

The group took a similar round-robin approach to “Dame a vous sans retollir” (“Lady, I Give You, Without End”) an amorous virelai by the 14th century composer Guillaume de Machaut, this time with three sopranos taking the verses. And though there were no soloists in “Ecco la primavera” (“Spring Has Come”) by Machaut’s contemporary, Francesco Landini, a pared-down choir produced a lovely, transparent sound.

That transparency, combined with a zestiness that keeps rhythms sharp and harmonies perfectly in focus, animated a handful of English madrigals by Thomas Weelkes – “Cold Winter’s Ice Is Fled,” which captures the seasonal shift in a direct, palpable way; “Now Let Us a Merry Meeting” and “Take Here My Heart,” on the first half of the program, and the rich-textured “Mars in Fury” on the second.

The bellicose “Mars in Fury” might seem an odd selection for a program about springtime and love, but the connection was not so distant: Mars’ fury is directed at Venus, part of a timeless allegory. The piece was also connected to a pair of madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi, “Altri canti d’Amor” (“Some Sing of Love”) and “Altri canti di Marte” (“Some Sing of Mars”), two more pieces that move smoothly between soloists, small vocal ensembles, and the full choir.

The program’s twin centerpieces were French pastoral cantatas, chronicling the rocky romances of shepherds and shepherdesses, and their battles with faithfulness. Michel de Montéclair’s “Le Triomfe de la Constance” (“The Triumph of Faithfulness”), is a solo piece, heard from the perspective of the shepherd Damon, who worries that his girlfriend, Climène, is unfaithful, but discovers that she was just testing him. Soprano Erin Chenard’s phrasing and coloration aptly captured the shepherd’s shifting mood.

In Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s more expansive “Amor vince ogni cosa” – from which the program as a whole took its title – the shepherdesses Filli (soprano Molly Harmon) and Eurilla (mezzo-soprano Andrea Graichen) are pitted against their suitors, Linco and Silvio (tenors Martin Lescault and Jonathan Scott). The shepherdesses are disinclined to favor their lovelorn men, but come around, with some help from Pan (bass John D. Adams), who reports to them that Linco has saved Filli’s favorite lamb from a ravenous wolf, and Silvio has fended off a wild bear that was after Eurilla.

The soloists were consistently fine throughout the program, as was the period instrument band – violinists Mary Jo Carlsen and Lauren Hastings Genova; gambist Kathryn Sytsma; cellist Philip Carlsen, and theorbist Timothy Burris, with Fithian directing from the harpsichord – in the Monteverdi, Montéclair and Charpentier works.

Allan Kozinn is a former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kozinn

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