|Ottawa Bach Choir gives season wonderful kick-off|
|Written by RICHARD TODD, OTTAWA CITIZEN | Monday, November 28, 2011|
Where: St. Matthew's Church
OTTAWA — No musical era is more closely associated with Christmas than the Baroque. Saturday evening’s Ottawa Bach Choir concert at St. Matthew’s might be taken as the launch of Ottawa’s musical holiday season, not only because it’s the first major offering this year, but also because it was the occasion of the launch of the Choir’s fifth CD, entitled Cantate Domino.
The program was fascinating and rewarding, made up of early Baroque works, mostly by composers whose names are not the stuff of casual conversation. Because of its historical period involved, Lisette Canton, the conductor and founder of the Choir, chose a tuning of A=466 rather than the modern concert pitch of A=440 or A=415, often applied to later composers like Bach and Vivaldi.
The program opened with Giovanni Gabrielli’s setting of O magnum mysterium. As in most of the program, the choir was accompanied by a recently-formed baroque orchestra called Ensemble la Rose des Vents whose members play, in addition to strings and an organ, cornets, sackbuts and a dulcian.
The performance was solid and made a good opening for an evening of joyful music. It was followed by short pieces by Scheidt, Ahle and Hassler. All were nicely rendered, though there were moments in Scheidt’s Nun komm der Heiden Heiland when the tenors and sopranos seemed spread thin or perhaps a little tentative.
The composer most represented in the program was Michael Praetorius and his Es ist ein Ros entsprungen was the most familiar piece on the program, with In dulci jubilo by another Praetorius, Hieronymus, coming a close second. Both were beautifully sung.
The orchestra went it alone in Gabrielli’s Canzon VI à 7.
Although the players are accomplished there may be some improvement to be had in blend and ensemble.
The major work on the program was Heinrich Schütz’s Weihnachts-Historie, or Christmas story. It’s a short oratorio based on texts mainly from Matthew and Luke. Unlike J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, a massive work, this is only about half an hour long, made up mostly of recitatives, interrupted now and then by a trio of shepherds, and Angel or even King Herod at one point.
The singing was excellent throughout. Tenor Jeffrey Boyd was solid and expressive in the gruelling role of the Evangelist, and soprano Agnes Zsigovics was a perfectly wonderful angel.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen 2011