RENEWAL (Choral Arts Philadelphia): Matt Glandorf looks to Bach’s predecessors for the final Bach@7 concert of the season

Samuel Scheidt

Samuel Scheidt

Philadelphia has many musicians devoted to historical research, and Choral Arts Philadelphia artistic director Matthew Glandorf has done his share of researching musical scores of composers who preceded Johann Sebastian Bach. For the April 24 Choral Arts Philadelphia Bach@7 concert, he created a program around a glorious but lesser-known work by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), The History of the joyful and victorious resurrection of our only redeemer and comforter, written in 1623.

Glandorf included another master whose music a more readily discernible stylistic connection to Bach. The Padouan Dolorosa and Courant Dolorosa by Samuel Scheidt (1587-1684) contained beautiful harmonies with hints of the daring dissonances Bach would later exploit. The four parts played by the quartet of viols (Sarah Cunningham, Donna Fournier, and Rebecca Humphrey on viole da gamba and Heather Miller Lardin on violone) were haunting, yet not loud enough for the large sanctuary, even on the fourth row. The delicacy of the sound, however, was a stimulating appetizer for the main course.

The Schütz was performed as the composer wished, with six singers. The voices of Mary Magdalene, Jesus, the High Priest, Cleophas, and the young man in the grave were all written as two imitative parts. Schütz stipulated two singers for each, or, in their absence, an instrument playing the second part. The effect of two voices gave each part a duality and richness, especially the voice of Jesus sung by mezzo-soprano Eva Kastner-Putschl and tenor Michael Jones, who managed to blend so beautifully, one would have been hard-pressed to identify a gender for either voice. The two angels were a lovely blend of the voices of tenors James Reese and Michael Jones and the high point of the concert for me was their very brief duet comforting Mary Magdalene (sung with crystal clear high soprano voices by Rebecca Myers and Clara Swartzentruber) as she discovers the empty tomb. James Reese also had the yeoman’s job of singing the entire Evangelist role as well as several tenor duets and chorus tenor parts. His beautiful rich tenor remained as clear at the beginning as it was ringing out in the joyful finale chorus.

It was hard to imagine anything following this incredible work, but Matthew Glandorf and the singers and gambe performed a beautiful rendition of nineteenth century composer Josef Rheinberger’s Abendlied. The song is based on a passage from Luke 24:29 which was also in the text of the Schütz, when Cleophas and his apprentice ask Jesus to stay with them: … “Stay with us; for it is toward evening and the day is spent.”

[Choral Arts Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Bach Collegium at Saint Clement’s Church, 2013 Appletree Street] April 24, 2019; choralarts.com.

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