|Gorgeous treatment of sacred music|
|Écrit par RICHARD TODD, OTTAWA CITIZEN | Dimanche, 31 Juillet 2011 09:26|
THE HIDDEN LISZT
Where: Dominion-Chalmers Church
Saturday evening’s Siskind Concert was given mainly to the sacred music of Franz Liszt as interpreted by the Ottawa Bach Choir, but it was preceded by a lovely appetizer courtesy of the Arsis Handbell Youth Ensemble from Estonia.
The 12 young bellsters played pieces such as Albinoni’s Adagio and Schubert’s Ave Maria. If this all sounds a tad silly, you obviously weren’t there. It was distilled loveliness.
Consider that each player can only hold two bells at a time. Any given phrase requires notes contributed by at least two or three of them, plus others providing the harmony. Yet they managed to keep the line flowing in perfect balance and legato.
Then there was the Ottawa Bach Choir and its conductor, Lisette Canton, with a program of largely unknown Liszt. Granted, this composer isn’t the first to come to mind when we think of church music, but he wrote a fair bit, some of it very good.
Canton opened the program with an Ave Maria and Pater Noster. These are beautiful pieces making good use of Liszt’s adventurous idiom. The singing was gorgeous, as we’ve come to expect from this choir.
Organist Jonathan Oldengarm accompanied the performance. His playing was sensitive and exact.
The evening’s major work was Liszt’s Via Crucis, The Way of the Cross. It consists of an introduction and meditations on each of the 14 Stations of the Cross that you usually find on the walls of Catholic churches. Most of the meditations are choral, two or three played by the organ alone and a few involving soprano Julie Nesrallah or bass-baritone Robert Gleadow.
It is an amazing piece, harmonically advanced, musically compelling and possessing an authentic spiritual dimension. It was neither performed nor published until 50 years after it was written and 40 years after Liszt’s death. Saturday’s performance was wonderful in every way.
Organist Oldengarm rendered Liszt’s B-A-C-H Fantasie nicely and bass-baritone Gleadow gave a strong rendition of Psalm 129 De profundis.
Where sheer beauty is concerned, nothing quite matched Psalm 137, By the Waters of Babylon. It is scored for mezzo-soprano, female chorus, violin, harp and organ. Mezzo Kriztina Szabó’s singing was ravishing.
The program ended with a stirring account of the chorale Nun danket alle Gott.
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