OBF opens on joyful note
For the past dozen years, the Oregon Bach Festival has flung open its doors with the sound of children singing. A lot of children. As in 300, from all over the country.
Standing shoulder to shoulder, five rows deep, spiffy in ties or skirts, hair slicked down, shirts tucked in, they fill the high-ceilinged lobby with their clear, treble voices. It's a wonderful warm-up for the main concert that follows inside the formal Silva Hall behind them, and it also serves as a preview of the children's main concert that comes a few days later (7:30 p.m. Sunday).
Friday's performance had smiles all over it. Haydn's genius here is his ability to illustrate the familiar biblical words, by way of John Milton's "Paradise Lost," through descriptive music. Birds, bees, the rising sun and the joyful union of man and woman come across in graceful specificity. A big moment comes early: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth" starts out in dark, ambiguous harmonies, followed by the choir entering softly with the words "Let there be light," before exploding into "And there was light" on a C Major chord.
As is their custom, Helmuth Rilling, the festival's co-founder and artistic director, the Festival Orchestra and Chorus committed themselves to large and small details of the music. While not big on excitement, the performance offered many excellent moments, including elaborate arias for three vocal soloists, soprano Robin Johannsen, tenor James Taylor and bass-baritone Christopheren Nomura. The professional choir sang with clarity and polish, while the orchestra embellished the drama with rich-toned contributions from oboes, flutes, clarinets, strings and thumping timpani.
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