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Heavenly Bach B Minor Mass well worth the wait

  • Jul 18, 2013
By James Bash From Northwest Reverb [Full Review] [Excerpt] [caption id="attachment_12419" align="alignleft" width="240"]IMG_3994 Tobias Berndt, Nicholas Phan, Roxana Constantinescu, Julia Sophie Wagner. Photo: Caitlin Estes[/caption] Singing with great intensity, the members of the Berwick Chorus of the OBF expressed the text and music of the Mass with superb dynamics, achieving super-soft pianissimos and robust fortissimos. One of the hallmarks of this choir is its excellent diction and balance between all parts, and in this performance, the singers excelled in both areas to such a degree that the supertitles were practically unnecessary. Fleet passages, such as when the sopranos sang “Et in terra pax” or when the men sang “Et iterum venturus est,” were elevated because of the choir’s articulation. Also, because of the Schnitz’s acoustics, it a rare event when you can a strong legato alto line, but the alto section of the chorus was especially impressive when it entered with a “Kyrie eleison” that could’ve easily been buried. Another divine moment came during the Credo when the choir sang “et sepultus est” in super hushed tones and then exploded into joy with “Et resurrexit!” Also stellar in this performance were soloists Julia Wagner, soprano, Roxana Constantinescu, alto, Nicholas Phan, tenor, and Tobias Berndt, bass. They sang with impeccable intonation and with enough volume to be heard in the Schnitz, but avoided an overly operatic sound. The duets, such as the “Christe eleison” between Wagner and Constantinescu were exquisitely balanced. Berndt’s got to the lowest notes in “Quoniam tuo solus Sanctus,” but the smooth quality of his baritone range was perfect for “Et in Spiritum Sanctum.” Phan's singing of "Benedictus" was immaculate and filled with emotion. Under Rilling’s baton, the 32-member orchestra gave finely nuanced performance, supporting the singers with incisive and sensitive phrasing. That may sound contradictory, but the pleasurable thing about Bach’s music is that it can sound lovely and intellectually stimulating at the same time. Individual accolades go to concertmaster Rahel Rilling, principal flutist András Adorján, principal oboist allan Vogel, principal trumpeter Guy Few, principal bassoonist Kenneth Munday, and the continuo ensemble (violincellist Dávid Adorján, double bassist Dave Williamson, organist Boris Kleiner, and bassoonist Munday) for contributing a singing sound in accompaniment to the soloists. Hearing Few play the mellow corno da caccia (similar to a hunting horn), which Bach specified for the “Quoniam to solus Sanctus” section, was an extra treat.