Monday, March 4, 2013

Florilegium Chamber Choir - Bach, Füting & Bruckner - 03/03/13

Conductor: Nicholas DeMaison
Bach: Cantata No 131
Peter Tantsits: Tenor - Adrian Rosas: Bass - Emily DiAngelo: Oboe - Walter Hilse: Piano
Reiko Füting: silently wanders/extensio
Nani Füting: Mezzo soprano - John Popham: Cello - Peter Adrian: Organ
Bruckner: Te Deum
Kathryn Hotarek: Soprano - Nani Füting: Mezzo soprano - Peter Tantsits: Tenor - Adrian Rosas: Bass - Walter Hilse: Organ

After all the excitement of last week, it was nice to spend a low-key weekend hanging out in my neighborhood, with the extra bonus of attending La Commedia Tedesca by the Florilegium Chamber Choir in their usual home, the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, which presents the double advantage of good acoustics and a walking distance from my apartment. Not only was the program promising to retrace some Dante-inspired afterlife travels through the works of German composers Bach, Füting and Brucker, but it was also an opportunity of making good use of the church's newly restored organ and piano. All the more reason to give up the sunny afternoon outside and join a group of friends and colleagues inside.

It is hard to go wrong with Bach under any circumstances, and even if his early Cantata No 131 was written when his musical genius was not in full bloom yet, it is unquestionably an engaging work. Inspired by an unfortunate event, namely the burning of the town of Mühlhausen, where Bach had just moved at the time, it nevertheless eventually bristles with joyful hope. The opening may be distressing, but it is also beautifully expressive, and while the numerous repetitions of the text can occasionally become tedious, the cantata contains pleasant turns for the instumental and vocal soloists. Yesterday, the last chorus was especially noteworthy for its delicately intricate texture and appealing harmonies, all emphasizing in unison that things will get better.
The second work on the program, Reiko Füting's silently wanders/extensio, sounded to my ears like one of those abstruse compositions that are more rewarding in theory than in practice. The frequent use of silence, whose undeniable power is too often neglected, was a laudable endeavor and some of the fleeting harmonies springing out of nowhere had a certain attention-grabbing quality to them, but the whole thing was too frustratingly uneven and overly stretched to leave the non-theoretical music lover in me satisfied.
After the intermission, we were back to more traditional fare with Bruckner's only commission ever, his unabashedly glorious Te Deum. For that special occasion, the singers were perched in the organ room, an unusual set-up that had most members of the audience turn around in the pews or sit on the altar's steps. The reward was absolutely grand though. Walter Hilse tamed the mighty organ just enough to let the noble yet jubilant voices of the chorus as well as the outstanding soloists seamlessly rise and flow all throughout the unstoppable epic journey. There was no doubt that we had definitely made it out of hell and were fast ascending into heaven.

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