Gloriae Dei Cantores delivers simple, straightforward program

October 28, 1992|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

The Gloriae Dei Cantores, which performed last night at the Basilica of the Assumption, is a Massachusetts-based choir. Though its program -- which was conducted by its music director Elizabeth Patterson -- was wide and varied, the performances suggested a style that could perhaps be characterized as chicken-on-white-with-mayonnaise choral singing. This is not to criticize -- there are days that I'd rather have lunch at the East Hamilton St. Club than elbow for a place in Attman's on Corned Beef Row -- but only to say that at all times the singing was well-mannered and disciplined, polite rather than vigorous.

The most satisfying performance of the evening came in three choruses from Georgy Sviridov's "Tsar Feodor Ioannovich." The composer, who was one of the best students of the young Shostakovich in the latter's Leningrad days, has always had a gift for fusing words and music with an ethnic flavor that delights Russian audiences and these choruses -- particularly the third with its floating solo soprano line -- are gems. The Cantores, who have toured Russia and Eastern Europe, sang these pieces with sympathy and were equipped with men with voices low and strong enough to make the music effective. For the same reasons, a hymn by Mikhail Glinka and two Byzantine chants were also persuasive.

Elsewhere the chorus was -- to these ears, at least -- less enjoyable. A mass by Orlande de Lassus was marred by faulty intonation -- the singers were consistently flat -- and two Shaker tunes ("I Will Bow" and "Simple Gifts") sounded a little too well scrubbed. A piece by Baltimore's Robert Twynham (he's the choirmaster of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen) for choir, organ TTC and trumpet made a fine impression with a brass line that ricocheted playfully over its joyous choral line, but it could have been more cleanly played and energetically interpreted.

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