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March 20, 2007

Cantata Singers exhilarate

Boston Globe (MA):

A good performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor will leave you exhausted, drained by the monumentality of Bach's musical and spiritual vision. A great performance will leave you exhilarated, as if the music itself had somehow done the hard work and left you with a powerful rush of vitality in its wake.

Sunday's concert by the Cantata Singers fell into this second category. In their hands the Mass was not only epic but also intensely human and personal. The music had more energy and intensity than any performance of the piece I can remember, including their last shot at it, in 2003.

Paradoxically, a lot of care has to go into making this music sound so unfettered. Conductor David Hoose paced each of the choral movements so that they seemed to grow organically. In his conducting you could see an emphasis not on the beat but on the direction of the phrasing. Tempos were generally brisk: movements like the "Gloria in excelsis Deo" and the "Sanctus" had an irresistible swing to them, while "Cum Sancto Spiritu" and the "Et expecto resurrectionem" flew by at daredevil speed, yet the interweaving contrapuntal lines could be heard clearly. By contrast, the "Crucifixus," the Mass's darkest moment, moved slowly and in pangs of dissonance. Catharsis lay the joyful explosion of "Et resurrexit," which followed immediately.

As always, the soloists were drawn from the chorus ranks. Among the standouts were two veterans, soprano Karyl Ryczek and mezzo Lynn Torgove. Their duet in "Et in unum Dominum" was a model of clarity and balance, and Torgove's "Agnus Dei" was gripping. Baritone Dana Whiteside sang in a lovely, rounded tone in "Et in Spiritum Sanctum," and bass-baritone Mark-Andrew Cleveland gave rock-solid conviction to the "Quoniam." (The other soloists were mezzo-soprano Catherine Hedberg and tenor Charles Blandy.)

But the greatest soloist in Bach's Mass is the chorus, and here the Cantata Singers are virtually in a class by themselves. Their union of polish and expressivity is an ongoing wonder. Hearing them sing the majestic closing "Dona nobis pacem" was like seeing the first rays of daylight slowly overtake the night sky, ending in a blaze of radiant sound.

Posted by acapnews at March 20, 2007 8:57 PM