Chorale concert offers best of composers

March 24, 1995|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to the Sun

A program consisting of a Bach cantata, a Mozart motet and a Haydn symphony might, at first blush, appear to be a nice, eclectic bill of fare for a spring concert.

But Bach's "Christ lag in Todesbanden," Mozart's "Exsultate, Jubilate" and Haydn's "Farewell" symphony, the three prime works on tomorrow evening's Annapolis Chorale concert at St. Anne's Church in Annapolis, represent far more than pleasant diversity.

Each piece seems to sum up the creative genius of its composer. You'd have to think hard, in short, to come up with compositions that are more Bach than "Christ lag," more Mozart than "Exsultate, Jubilate" and more Haydn than the "Farewell."

And that's just how maestro Ernest Green, conductor of the 8 p.m. concert, designed it. "What we have here," he said, "are three of the very greatest composers at the apex of their art."

Written for church performance on Easter Sunday, "Christ lag in Todesbanden" (Christ Lay in Thrall of Death) is one Bach's earliest cantatas, composed sometime between 1708 and 1714. Its six-stanza text is a hymn by Martin Luther based on the medieval Easter chant "Victimae paschali laudes."

"It reminds me more of the Bach motets than the other cantatas," said Mr. Green. "The vocal writing is dense, solos are actually set for the entire section not for individuals, and the lines are very compact."

From the biting intensity of the opening Sinfonia through the declamatory exultation of the last "Hallelujah," "Christ lag" is Bach all the way, probing, deeply spiritual, supremely well crafted, and propelled forward -- miraculously -- by the same energy that fuels the stars.

Mozart's "Exsultate, Jubilate" (Rejoice, Shout!) was composed between 1772 and 1773 when the young genius was in Milan directing the premier of his opera "Lucio Silla." He was 16 at the time.

Don't let the tenderness of age throw you -- this motet for solo soprano is vintage Mozart. The opening movement, flowing and lyrical yet triumphal and infectiously energetic, gives way to "Tu virginum corona" (Thou crown of virgins), one of the sweetest, most songful interludes in all of Mozart. The famous "Alleluia," with its endless parade of rapid-fire 16th note runs, all but tickles the nose with its champagne-like effervescence. New York City soprano Jane Adler will serve as soloist.

The musicians of Franz Joseph Haydn's orchestra had to leave their families behind during the season of concerts they played for their patron, Prince Nicholas Eszterhazy.

When the prince decided to extend the concert season, Haydn sent his employer a musical message.

In the final movement of his symphony No. 45, composed for the occasion, the musicians and conductor leave the stage at various junctures until only a pair of violins are left on stage at the final "Farewell" theme. The prince got the joke.

The symphony, though, is anything but a joke. It's a work that begins with bristling energy in the key of F-sharp minor and never looks back.

"With Haydn," said maestro Green, "there is always that sense of invention. He takes the smallest things and, incredibly, makes unbelievable magic out of them."

The Annapolis Chorale's spring concert will be given at 8 p.m. tomorrow at St. Anne's Church, Church Circle, in Annapolis. For information about tickets or the pre-concert dinners at Reynolds Tavern and Harry Browne's Restaurant, call 263-1906.

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