in: Reviews

May 17, 2009

BBC Still Reliable Messenger

by

In their own biographic notes, the Back Bay Chorale refer to themselves as an amateur chorus—but make no mistake, amateur is no synonym for amateurish. Clearly, the members perform for love, and the result is a sound that is large and sumptuous, yet disciplined and transparent. Indeed, their articulation was often clearer than that of their otherwise remarkable soprano soloist.

For the 35th anniversary of their founding by the late beloved Larry Hill, the Back Bay Chorale chose an acknowledged masterpiece, Brahms’ German Requiem, and commissioned what one can imagine might turn out to be another, Julian Wachner’s Come My Dark Eyed One.  What the works have superficially in common are libretti based on miscellaneous poetry. While Brahms made his own selection of Biblical passages, Wachner relied on a libretto culled by Maria-Ève Munger, his Charles Jennens.

And Wachner excelled at word setting. The work developed in intensity beginning with his Randall Thompson-esque strains of crowd-pleasing choral writing to his own almost savage response to Emily Dickinson’s Wild Night. Chorus, orchestra and soloists David Kravtiz (baritone) and Arianna Zuckerman (soprano) and conductor Scott Allen Jarrett presented a determined and committed world premiere.

Nevertheless, one was delighted to be immersed in the comforting and consoling grandeur of the Brahms German Requiem for the second half. Conducting from memory, Scott Allen Jarrett elicited an emotional and dramatically charged performance from the ensemble.  The stentorian tones of David Kravitz sounded prophetic, while soprano Arianna Zuckerman soared over the full orchestra with a satisfying ease.  The orchestra had a very good night as well, especially the horn section and the busy timpanist, Nick Tolle.

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