Music Director & Conductor: Julian Wachner
Strauss: Der Abend
Martin: Mass for Double Choir
Mahler: Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
My office's move from the by now completely gentrified Flatiron District to still evolving Downtown Manhattan a couple of weeks ago has had its fair share of pros and cons, but the bottom line is, if I had to bid a tearful arrivederci to Eataly and its sinful gelatos and hot chocolates, I was thrilled by the sudden opportunity to attend the highly regarded, extremely popular, but until now out of reach, weekly Concerts at One in the beautiful Episcopal Trinity Wall Street Church, which proudly stands at the corner and Broadway and Wall Street, just about one block from our new address.
After experiencing the superb musicianship of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and its indefatigable music director and conductor Julian Wachner at Carnegie Hall last season, I could only look forward to becoming more acquainted with them on a regular basis. So last Thursday, at 12:55 PM, a small contingent made the executive decision to discreetly leave the office and go bask in the glorious sounds of familiar Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, as well as of lesser-known Frank Martin, for the season-opening performance of Concerts at One.
When he was not busy shocking the world with radical operas, Richard Strauss was enthralling it with stunningly beautiful works in the best late Romantic German tradition. Specifically written for a 16-part a cappella choir, "Der Abend" is such a radiant little gem, dreamily describing a peaceful seascape at sunset in all its ever-changing, naturally blazing colors. The feeling of complete perfection was delicately highlighted by the song's delicate textures and the choir's richly lyrical singing, which softly ended in a barely there whisper.
Before moving on to Mahler, another Viennese master of the late Romantic German tradition, we made a memorable detour via multi-cultural Switzerland with Geneva-born Calvinist Frank Martin and his Mass for Double Choir. The composer finished it in 1928 and then purposely left it in the back of his drawer for four decades, thinking that this testament of his relationship to God was too private to be bestowed upon the general public. Luckily for us, he changed his mind, and the world can now enjoy this major, if still under-recognized, 20th century choral masterpiece, whose brilliant combination of Renaissance and modern styles makes it a truly grand achievement. The Choir of Trinity Wall Street did not shy away from the challenge at hand and delivered a performance of remarkable intensity, expertly conveying a myriad of different emotions while unflappably maintaining the work's artistic and spiritual integrity.
The cleverly rounded up program concluded with a solid dose of Mahlerian angst and melancholy with his lieder "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen", which for the occasion was sung in an arrangement for a 16-part a cappella choir. The atmosphere was not all darkness and gloom though, and beyond the overall poignancy one could decipher a touching ode to solitude and introspection, which was all the more appreciated as we were getting ready to jump back into the crowded streets and frantic pace of the real world outside. We will be back.