Annapolis Chamber Orchestra puts verve into Bach birthday 'Bash' includes tribute by local composer Moses

March 24, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

What better way to celebrate Johann Sebastian Bach's birthday Saturday than with a "Bach Birthday Bash," thrown by Ernest Green's Annapolis Chamber Chorus and Orchestra at St. Anne's Church in the capital city.

Two Bach cantatas -- No. 51, "Jauchzet Gott!", the festive work for solo soprano and trumpet obbligato, and "Wie schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern" (How Beautifully the Morning Star Gleams) which is No. 1, -- were offered, as well as the 2nd Orchestral Suite and the premiere of "Happy Birthday Mr. Bach," a delightful birthday tribute by Annapolis composer Leonard Moses.

There was good singing and some fine playing, but the real star of the show was old J. S. himself. In Bach, it's amazing just how much there is to be amazed by.

How inspiring to sense the deep faith that animates a Bach chorale such as "How very happy I am in my heart" that concludes "Wie schoen leuchtet" with such spiritual authority.

The unsettling harmonies of Bach's recitatives sound adventurous and thoroughly modern some 250 years after his death.

And how electrifying to hear that gleaming trumpet tooting away in the stratosphere as the soprano bids us to "Sing joyfully to God in all lands!" in "Jauchzet Gott!".

Saturday's performances were certainly good enough to bring out all these things and more.

Les Hunt, who is about to retire from the military after a 30-year-stint in the U.S. Marine Corps Band and Orchestra, handled the famous tongue-twisting solo flute passages in the for solo flute in the Orchestral Suite.

The capable Carolene Winter who serves as the Chorale's "house soprano" took care of the vocal solos.

Still, I wish a more engaging cellist had been engaged to play the important continuo portions, and that more trouble had been taken to balance the orchestra and the chamber chorus. The singers were covered by the plush sonic carpet laid down by the orchestra.

Winter may not have had the juice to trumpet "Jauchzet Gott!" out with ideal authority, but she was gloriously in synch with the oboe d'amore in Cantata No. 1. Her sensitive, intelligent phrasing is always a pleasure to hear.

The fugal portions of Moses' tribute to Herr Bach had real 18th century zip to them, and his tips of the cap to Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" and "Magnificat" were witty indeed.

Funny thing, though, the "Aria and Trio" reminded me a little more of Handel than Bach. Oh well, the two were born in the same year (1685), remember? Close enough.

Pub Date: 3/24/98

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