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Cantata Singers provide a profound and uplifting evening of music in Jordan Hall


Conducted by David Hoose.

Program of works by Bach,

Harbison and Schumann.

Jordan Hall, November 10.


DAVID HOOSE and the Cantata Singers showed a startlingly modern face of Bach in a remarkable performance last Friday night of the Cantata, BWV 26, "Ach wie fl"uchtig, ach wie nightig," the first work in a profound and uplifting evening of music.

Hoose maintained great tension and urgency in a lean but emotional account of a cantata about the fleeting nature of life. Strings were razor-sharp, wind playing dense and evocative. The sound of the wind band and organ in the second aria was rich with dark, strong colors.

The chorus accented each step of the drama, sending a shiver down the spine, for example, with their descriptive pronunciation of the word "Fl"uchtig," (fleeting). The quartet of soloists were up to their task, if not always first-rate. The total effect was striking: true to Bach but fresh and right for the twentieth century.

After the Bach, Harbison's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Flight into Egypt sounded a bit old-fashioned. A setting of Matthew 2:13-23, which tells of Joseph, Mary and Jesus' escape from Herod into Egypt, it is nonetheless a powerful work, painful yet -- at its culmination -- redeeming.

Baritone Sanford Sylvan came through strong and clear -- he knows how to shape every syllable and how to link them together fluently as well -- and soprano Guiping Deng sang with beauty and character, too.

"An artist's work is measured not by our ease in understanding it or identifying with it, or by how much we like it, but by our sympathy towards it," writes David Hoose in a program note in defense of Schumann. His reading of the Requiem, Op. 148, showed, however, that no apology was needed for Schumann's work, for the performance was full of significance: in fact, it was a deeply religious event.

This Requiem is on the quiet side, and the chorus sang smoothly; yet it evoked both emotion and spirituality. The Kyrie was brightly illuminated, the Confutatis not without fire yet, perhaps most disarming was the solitude of the inward-looking Benedictus, performed with a hushed holiness. Among the soloists Gloria Raymond was outstanding, her tones resonant with devotion and beauty.

All in all this was a wonderful concert, proving yet again that the Cantata Singers are one of Boston's most valuable musical institutions: putting the new on public display, and making the old sound new and relevant for today. They provide more than just music: their art is a form of therapy, and it's impossible not to feel renewed and refreshed as a result.