Conductor: Ivan Fischer
Bach: Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 - Dominique Labelle, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Michael Slattery, Thomas E. Bauer & The University of Maryland Concert Choir
Spring and its usual accompanying Easter, Passover as well as the enchanting sight of our famed cherry blossoms, are upon us again, therefore it is time for Bach's Mass in B minor. I'm not crazy about masses, but I have gradually learned to immensely respect Bach for all that we owe him (love isn't in the air just yet), so going to the Kennedy Center yesterday evening to hear Ivan Fischer conduct the National Symphony Orchestra in what may be the master's grandest achievement was more than a why-not? move on that definitely springy Thursday evening.
Over two hours but with an intermission, Bach's mass is a monument that can be approached as a religious or a musical experience. Either way, it is likely to be very satisfying in the right hands, and yesterday maestro Fischer took pain to dwell deep into its detailed intricacies while keeping the whole work unified. The set up was a bit odd with the wind instruments prominently placed and the chorus moving around quite a bit, but it eventually all worked. It did require some commitment from the audience though, as the score can often sound frightfully monotonous and linear. The chorus was all students from the University of Maryland and included some extremely promising elements. They sang with heart-warming vigor and poise and were a joy to listen to. The four soloists made a generally good impression as well, even if the baritone was sometimes barely audible in his first solo. Because of Bach's natural sense of restraint, which Ivan Fischer respectfully implemented, the voices could be easily heard most of the time and gave the whole concert an ethereally human dimension perfectly suited for the occasion.