Music of the Baroque closes season with a vocal feast including Telemann rarity

Sat May 08, 2010 at 12:35 pm

By Gerald Fisher

George Philipp Telemann

Spotlighting what claims to be the first performance in modern times of a marvelous cantata by Telemann, Nicholas Kraemer and Music of the Baroque are ending their season this weekend with a flourish of brass and timpani.

The lengthy program Friday night at the Harris Theater converged around vocal music written for the Feast of St. Michael and offered three cantatas by Bach as well as the Telemann rarity. Saint Michael, of course, is known for his defeat of Satan in the form of a dragon, and the texts employed (mostly from Revelations) offer plenty of opportunities for bravura instrumentation and fierce dynamism.

The tone was set with a solid performance by chorus and full orchestra of the brief but succinct cantata fragment by Bach, Nun ist der Heil und die Kraft—just four minutes or so of pure distilled Bach at his most engaged.

This heady opener was followed by a richly scored Suite in D minor by Telemann for three oboes, bassoon and strings. Kraemer brought out the back-and-forth interplay between the winds and strings and the trio of oboists, Robert Morgan, Peggy Mitchell and Erica Anderson, showed their fluency in this music as they did most of the evening.

The Bach Cantata No. 130, Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, concluded the first half and featured some fine solo work by the authoritative baritone Sanford Sylvan matching himself gamely against trumpets and timpani. Better still was the refined vocalism of the high tenor Colin Ainsworth in an unaffected aria stylishly partnered by the obbligato flute of Mary Stolper.

The prize of the evening was unquestionably the “new” (1726) cantata by Telemann, also titled Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft, and edited for these performances by Brian Clark.

The cantata consists of a two-part chorus followed by two recitative-aria pairings, a Bach-like chorale and a reprise of the opening chorus featuring trumpets and timpani. Sylvan again stood out for his strong presence and intelligent pointing of the text in the arias. The score is vintage Telemann—full of variety—with many felicities in the instrumental writing, notably the second bass aria, which is ornamented by plucked strings and suave violin bowing.

Perhaps including Bach’s oft-heard Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 was gilding the lily. With an already full evening of substantial music, it put the program over the two-hour mark without being particularly distinctive.

That said, the early Bach Cantata No. 19, Es erhub sich ein streit, was exceptional and offered a fit conclusion to the Michaelmas program with its vigorous depiction of the casting down of Satan in the opening chorus. This performance offered some fine work by the underutilized soprano Suzie LeBlanc, notable especially in her well-articulated recitatives, and offered another example of the firm and accurate tenor of Colin Ainsworth in the aria Bleibt, ihr Engel, bleibt bei mir, strikingly underpinned by Christopher Martin’s solo trumpet.

The MOB chorus, prepared for these performances by Kurt Hansen, was on top form—small in number but producing a large sound and enabling the various lines to shine through.

The program will be repeated 7:30 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church in Evanston.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Music of the Baroque closes season with a vocal feast including Telemann rarity”

  1. Posted May 09, 2010 at 6:55 am by Lauri

    I agree with the reviewer that the concert was too long. However, I would like to assert that one of the cantatas could have been eliminated, not the Brandenburg concerto as it was a welcome respite from the chorus/orchestra setting. My assessment was that it was a very distinctive and exciting performance due to the way in which the horns were used. The bravura playing of Jonathan Boen and Oto Carillo set it apart from the traditional way of presenting this piece. And finally, the Music of the Baroque Orchestra is filled with top flight professionals from Chicago, including Peggy Michel…(not Mitchell)

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