Chorus to tackle works by Bach

Concert: Columbia Pro Cantare and the Choir of Second Presbyterian Church will perform the composer's Cantata No. 12 and other baroque pieces.

Howard Live

March 23, 2000|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The dawning of 2000 has sent some pulses racing of late, but true music lovers know that the real essence of Y2K is the chance it offers to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach's death.

Indeed, the staunch German Lutheran Kapellmeister is revered as few others.

"The immortal god of harmony," Beethoven called him.

To Debussy, Bach was a "benevolent God, to whom musicians should offer a prayer before setting to work so that they may be preserved from mediocrity."

"Bach is a Colossus of Rhodes beneath whom all musicians pass and will continue to pass," said Charles Gounod, composer of the opera "Faust."

Contemporary voices must also offer praise, and it is in that spirit that Columbia Pro Cantare, Howard County's premier choral ensemble and one of Maryland's elite choirs, heads to Baltimore on Sunday afternoon for a concert of baroque fare dominated by the towering genius of J. S. Bach.

There, under the direction of its founding conductor, Frances Motyca Dawson, Pro Cantare will join the Choir of Second Presbyterian Church to present Cantata No. 12 ("Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen"), the "Double" Violin Concerto in D minor and excerpts from the "St. Matthew Passion."

Tomaso Albinoni's ubiquitous "Adagio," a Handel organ concerto with Second Presbyterian's organist Margaret Budd serving as soloist, and "Ich Lasse Dich," an obscure motet composed either by J. S. himself or by his talented son, Carl Philipp Emmanuel, round out the program.

The concert, which is free and open to the public, begins at 3: 30 p.m. Second Presbyterian Church is at 4200 St. Paul St. in Baltimore.

These informal concerts, presented as a labor of love with only minimal rehearsal time, have become popular in recent years with the Columbia singers and their fans. And this year, there is truly an embarrassment of riches to be had.

"Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" ("Weeping, Waiting, Grieving, Fearing") was composed in 1714 by the 29-year-old Bach as the cantata for the third Sunday after Easter. As the title suggests, most of the work is cloaked in sadness, though redemption is found in the final chorale "What God does is rightly done," with a solo trumpet providing a wonderful descant over the voices.

Alto Marianna Busching, tenor Robert McIver and bass Richard Hoffheins will perform the solo arias that convey pathos and yearning. Violinists Ronald Muchnik and Christoff Richter will take center stage for the D minor "Double" concerto, with that miraculous second movement -- warm, sinuous and profoundly intimate, it is Bach at his best.

With bits of the "St. Matthew" included, plus a tip of the cap to George Frideric Handel, the other dominant genius of the early 18th century, Sunday's concert will provide ample opportunity to revel in the glory of baroque in general and of Bach in particular. A splendid pastime indeed, for as a perceptive clergyman once asked, "Why should the devil have all the good tunes?"

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