For years, Tempesta di Mare has liberated its programs from the masterpiece mentality that often comes with higher-budget organizations. At Sunday's concert at Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, hardly a brand-name composer (excepting Antonio Vivaldi) or a previously known piece was heard. Tempesta di Mare is an old-music group that acts like a new-music group, by pushing the cutting edge back rather than forward. And, as in new-music concerts, expectations must shift: You won't always appreciate everything. In several cases, pieces had extremely modest claims on posterity.
Performance-wise, the primary attraction at Sunday's "Italians in Vienna" program was Michael Maniaci, who is billed as a soprano (his natural singing voice) as opposed to a countertenor (his vocal next-of-kin). Early on, his full-bodied voice tended to spread under pressure in higher volumes and in his upper range. By the end, though, there was a wonderful clarity to his passagework. And at every turn, his sympathy for the music ran deep, with a wonderful sense for shaping recitatives and making an aria phrase land with grace and confidence.