Superb finale caps concert's Jewish theme

March 07, 1994|By Kenneth Meltzer | Kenneth Meltzer,Special to The Sun

One of the most attractive aspects of Baltimore Choral Arts Society concerts over the past several years has been Music Director Tom Hall's engaging and innovative programming. Yesterday's concert at Kraushaar Auditorium was no exception, as the BCAS presented several works mostly by Jewish composers, many based upon Old Testament themes.

Ernest Bloch's plaintive "Suite Modale" for flute and string orchestra provided a welcome beginning to the afternoon. Flutist Emily Controulis' solo work was both tonally beautiful and technically flawless. The rapport between soloist and orchestra under Mr. Hall's direction was also exceptional.

Renaissance composer Salomone Rossi's musical setting of Psalm 92 for chorus was cleanly executed by the members of the Chamber Chorus. The antiphonal effects were particularly well served, and the Hebrew diction was, on the whole, quite excellent.

The performance of Giacomo Carissimi's 17th-century cantata "Jephte" proved less satisfying. The singing was generally attractive, yet both the soloists and chorus seemed hesitant to infuse the text with any sense of drama.

While "Jephte" is certainly not Verismo opera, it does present an eloquent setting of a highly tragic event. Both tenor Stanley Warren as Jephte and soprano Ann Tedards as his daughter Filia displayed pleasant lyric voices (although Ms. Tedards exhibited strain in the upper register), but neither conveyed the life-and-death situation faced by these characters.

The second half of the program opened with the Baltimore premiere of American composer Samuel Adler's 1990 Cantata "Any Human to Another."

As Mr. Adler notes, the work is based upon "four poems which concerned themselves with human relationships as well as our relationship to our physical and aesthetic environment."

Each of the four sections begins with evocative orchestral introductions. However, the first two movements, "A Sonnet to Orpheus" and "Any Human to Another," were marred by relatively inexpressive choral writing, which seemed to pay little attention to the poetry.

Things improved greatly in the third movement, "The Waking," which featured a lovely piano solo expertly played by Maurice Murphy and evocative soprano writing attractively delivered by Christine Bissett.

The final exuberant "Song of the Nations" offered a positive conclusion to an inauspicious beginning.

The concert's finale, Aaron Copland's 1947 setting of the Creation, "In the Beginning," was superb in every way.

Mezzo-Soprano Shelley Waite delivered her solo lines with rich tone, verbal clarity and winning enthusiasm.

The choral work was on an equal plane, and the final moments were absolutely hair-raising.

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