in: Reviews

March 16, 2009

Cantata Singers: Well Balanced, Glorious!

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Friday the 13th (of March) brought the third Jordan Hall installment of the Cantata Singers’ season honoring the works of Benjamin Britten. The concert started with Beethoven’s delightful and seldom performed Mass in C. The singing and the playing was joyous and light, with the singers dancing through the virtuoso sections, such as the “et vitam venture,” with unanimity and lightning speed. The solo quartet, formed by Karyl Ryczek, Lynn Torgove, Stephen Williams, and Dana Whiteside, deserves special mention. They were exceptionally well balanced, forming a chorus of four, not independent soloists. The mass deserves more hearing; the C major is a wonderful balance for economic gloom.

The second offering was the orchestral suite drawn from Britten’s opera Death in Venice as arranged by Steuart Bedford, a student of Britten’s. Thanks to the notes written by Bedford, the plot the music invoked was easy to follow. The music is amazing. At times as joyous as the Beethoven, it is at times passionately mad, at times intensely longing. Special praise is due the vibraphone player, who voiced the main character, and the beautiful duets between oboe (Peggy Pearson) and flute (Jacqueline DeVoe).

The final piece was Lo the Full, Final Sacrifice by Gerald Finzi. Written just after the carnage of World War Two, the work is an extended prayer which draws on the hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas in versions by Richard Crashaw, a 16th-century English poet. The hymns celebrate those who sacrifice their lives for a just cause. But the music is not sad. It, like the Beethoven and the Britten, has moments of great joy. The choral writing is richly harmonic, but not contrapuntal. Finzi wanted the words to be heard, and the Cantata Singers chorus delivered.

The series continues with the final concert Friday, May 8 at Jordan Hall, with two works of Britten, a Bach Cantata, and a newly commissioned work by Andy Vores titled Natural Selection.

David Griesinger is a Harvard-trained physicist who is eminent in the field of sound and music.

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