Habermann and the Desert Chorale do Handel right

Wed Aug 12, 2009 at 10:44 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

SANTA FE:  Joshua Habermann is a busy man.  Last fall he was hired as director of choral studies at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, also taking the reins as artistic director of the Master Chorale of South Florida. 

 This summer, in addition to getting married, Habermann also kicked off his first season as music director of the Santa Fe Desert Chorale.

 Founded in 1983 by Lawrence Bandfield , who passed away in February, the Desert Chorale draws professional singers from across the country for its summer season, performing smart, challenging program of wide-ranging repertoire in historic settings in and around Santa Fe.

 I caught the Chorale’s “Handel and the Italians” Sunday matinee presented at the imposing Scottish Rite Center.  While the lack of air-conditioning played havoc with the chamber ensemble’s violin intonation, the singing of the 24-member Chorale was consistently polished, refined and scrupulously balanced. Highlights included a gorgeous performance of Lotti’s Crucifixus, a radiant account of Handel’s Nisi Dominus and a vivid rendering of Handel’s Italian Duets, with the choir’s female members  making the most of the characterful solo writing.

 The afternoon culminated in a terrific performance of Handel’s Dixit Dominus, which ideally captured the music’s expressive and vigorous elements. The Chorale soloists in Virga, virtutis tuae and De torrente in via bibet were especially fine, the program rounded off with impressive agility in the fugal final chorus, Gloria Patri et Filio.

www.desertchorale.org; 800-244-4011.

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