Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cantori New York - Osborne, Metzger, Rossi, Boyle & Handel - 05/13/14

Charles Osborne: Samachti B'omrim Li (Psalm 122)
Cheryl Metzger: Oseh Shalom
Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational Choir & Cantor Ben Ellerin
Salamone Rossi: Elohim Hashiveinu (Psalm 80)
Park Avenue Synagogue Quartet
Benjamin C.S. Boyle: Excerpts from Lamentations of Jeremiah
Cantori New York & Mark Shapiro (Conductor)
George Frideric Handel: Excerpts from Judas Maccabeus
Cantori New York, Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational Choir, Mark Shapiro (Conductor), James Wetzel (Organ), Cantor Azi Schwartz (Tenor), Cantor Shira Lissek (Soprano) & Cantor Ben Ellerin (Tenor)

Since I had been to the Park Avenue Synagogue back in October to hear Cantori New York open their concert season, it only made sense for me to be there again when they closed the season last Tuesday. Naturally, the fact that they would reprise a couple of verses of Benjamin Boyle's mesmerizing Lamentations of Jeremiah as well as add some excerpts of Handel's Judas Maccabeus to the program did not hurt, so my friends Lori, Ruth and I eagerly converged in the bustling synagogue to start our evening with an early, short and free concert.

The Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational Choir's lively performance of "Samachti B'omrim Li" and "Oseh Shalom" opened the concert with attractive melodies while The Park Avenue Synagogue Quartet did full justice to the Baroque appeal of "Elohim Hashiveinu".
After having very much enjoyed the entire work about ten days ago, hearing Cantori sing a couple of takes from the Lamentations of Jeremiah was another not-to-be-missed opportunity to experience the poignant composition that Benjamin Boyle created from the prophet's dark predictions. And there was still a lot to be discovered and savored in his ingenious blend of classical and modern choral techniques that was smoothly brought to life by the finely tuned choir.
As much as I regretted not getting to hear the full version of the Lamentations of Jeremiah again, I was mightily grateful for not being put through the entirety of Handel's Judas Maccabeus (I have to confess that the all-or-nothing purist in me easily caves in when it comes to endless Baroque oratorios). That being said, the several excerpts had been cleverly selected and included a personal favorite in "Ah, wretched, wretched Israel", which winningly combined the lyrical powers of soprano Shira Lissek and Cantori's singers, a couple of unusual but pleasant duets, a couple of arias that charismatic cantor Azi Schwartz assuredly handled, and the grand finale of "Hallelujah, amen" that brought together both choirs. It was actually so grand that it was repeated as an encore and provided a roof-raising conclusion to our early evening musical treat.

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