|A magical night with Ottawa Bach Choir|
|Written by RICHARD TODD, OTTAWA CITIZEN | Saturday, December 19, 2009|
IN STILLER NACHT
Where: Église Saint-Jean Baptiste
OTTAWA — There was a close to ideal Christmas concert in the Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste Wednesday evening as the Ottawa Bach Choir performed a varied and entirely delightful program of music by composers from the 15th to the 21st centuries.
It began with Benjamin Britten's well-loved Ceremony of Carols for women's voices and harp. The soloists included sopranos Dayna Lamothe and Kathleen Radke and mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah. Caroline Leonardelli performed the all-important harp accompaniment.
Two or three blemishes in the choral singing notwithstanding, it was a lovely performance. Of the soloists, Nesrallah was the most successful. The two sopranos made worthy contributions, though. As always, Leonardelli's playing was excellent, particularly her exquisite rendition of the Interlude.
Nesrallah and Leonardelli have been performing and recording as a duo for a number of years now and Wednesday night about a third of the program was turned over to them. First they did Le sommeil de l'enfant Jésus by Herni Büsser, a composer who died as recently as 1973 -- at the age of 101. Then they turned to three traditional Spanish carols. These two ladies make exquisite music together.
The full choir and conductor Lisette Canton returned with a set of four familiar Renaissance songs, In dulci jubilo, two settings of Es ist ein Ros'entsprungen (one of them in Swedish) and a lusty rendition of Riu, Riu, Chiu. The sound was ravishing, possessing all the technical and expressive virtues that a choir should have.
Nesrallah and Leonardelli opened the second half of the program with Sept Noéls de Lourmarin by Henri Bosco. It can be hard to understand how music as beautiful as this can be as little-known as it is, but then the world is full of beautiful music for those with ears to hear it.
Afterward Canton and her choir returned for the final segment, which opened with the Huron Carol. This is something of a chestnut, at least in Canada, but the subsequent offerings were more interesting.
Among them were Britten's Hymn to the Virgin and Sweelink's Hodie Christus natus est. Each was executed with style and something close to technical perfection. The best of all, though, was a glowing account of Lux aurumque by the young composer Eric Whitacre.
It's a magical work and Canton, waving her magic wand, led her singers to a level of pure enchantment.
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