In Akron, Bach Becomes a Tribute to Notre Dame

17/04/2019

 Bach, Mass in B minor: Amanda Powell (soprano), Amanda Crider (mezzo-soprano), Jacob Perry (tenor), Jesse Blumberg (baritone), Apollo’s Singers, Apollo’s Fire / Jeannette Sorrell (conductor), St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Akron, Ohio, 15.4.2019. (MSJ)

The day that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned, Jeannette Sorrell dedicated this performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor to the people of France. It was a fitting gesture to honor one of humankind’s great spiritual artistic creations with another.

When artists truly get inside this mass, it comes to astonishing life. The problem with so many performances and recordings is that musicians all too often approach it with a faux gravitas which they hope will come across as reverence, but actually just shows intimidation.

Not so here.

Leave it to Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire to plunge past the baggage of a masterpiece’s cultural reputation and get to the real awe that animates its heart. The evening opened with a characteristic coup de théâtre: the chorus was brought in from the rear of the church along the side aisles. Before they stepped up to the stage, Sorrell began — the opening choral statement of the ‘Kyrie’ wrapping the audience on three sides. Only with the orchestral ritornello did the chorus take their place in the choir stalls.

The singers enunciated crisply, without crossing over the line into potentially disfiguring exaggeration. Instead, they found ways to understanding Bach’s emotions, as well as his compelling clarity of logic. Sorrell doesn’t just find the shape of phrases, she shades and weights the balance of chords and counterpoint, so that the harmony is always clearly leading forward.

Amanda Powell and Amanda Crider blended gorgeously in the ‘Christe eleison’. Powell unleashed more of her power for the ‘Laudamus te’, in tandem with Apollo’s Fire’s concertmaster, the brilliant Olivier Brault. Soaring passages alternated with intimate ones, such as ‘Domine Deus’, in which Powell and tenor Jacob Perry duetted with delicious lightness around Kathie Stewart’s luminous flute solo.

Baritone Jesse Blumberg brought an engaging grandeur to the ‘Quoniam to solus sanctus’ against a backdrop of Todd Williams’ amazing corno da caccia — the difficult authentic instrument, not a modern French horn. Blumberg scaled his voice back for the gentle ‘Et in Spiritum sanctum’, lit by the gorgeous pastels of the period double-reed instruments.

The most powerful moment came in the ‘Symbolum Nicenum’, where the piercing ‘Crucifixus’ was brought to a chilling close, followed by an elemental eruption of joy in the ‘Et resurrexit’. By the end, such wonders had been revealed that the complicated ‘Osanna repetatur’ earned its lofty richness. Doubly, it served as an appropriate close to the orchestra’s subscription season, which has been filled with triumphs.

Mark Sebastian Jordan

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Roman River 2019 Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! Bregenz Festival 17 July – 18 August 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2019 from 30 August to 19 September __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 BBC Proms 19 July – 14 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Adrian Partington Introduces the 2019 Three Choirs Festival in Conversation with John Quinn __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • NEW! MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces Winners of Emerging Dancer 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! In August Fulham Opera’s Most Ambitious Project to Date – Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM ANDRÉ PREVIN (1929-2019) __________________________________
  • NEW! CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month