“...a significant voice in the early music landscape in Western Canada.”
“The concluding ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ chorus...was here given a grand treatment by the choir and orchestra, up to perfect tempo and with excellent dynamics. The choir should be congratulated for a balanced and nuanced interpretation of this work, which brought the second half to a finely sung and successful close...”
“...in the final fugue...that found the choir at their finest...to shape and work every phrase and tiny piece of Baroque rhetoric that passed through their scores. It was a rousing and spritely performance.”
MAGNIFICAT - 25TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT - REVIEW
VOICES RISE TO GREAT HEIGHTS FOR CALGARY BACH FESTIVAL
By Stephan Bonfield, Calgary Herald, March 25, 2013
A long-time staple of Calgary's musical culture has been the Calgary Bach Festival Society, founded in 1988 by several people, including most notably Christine Azad (who was honoured at this afternoon's concert). The Society, now directed for the past five years by Terry Edwards, has grown to become a sigificant voice in the early music landscape in Western Canada. The 25th anniversary concert of the Calgary Bach Festival Society this past Sunday afternoon featured works by Handel, Mendelssohn and of course J.S. Bach, and was billed as a 'gift' for Calgary music lovers.
The concert led off with the Handel concerto grosso in A major from his opus 6 set - a perfect pleasure to open the afternoon, and Mr. Edwards seemed to have no trouble coaxing clear articulation from this mostly solid ensemble, complete with a lovely string sound combined with authentically-shaped Baroque phrasing. This wonderful group showed its class when executing every musical consideration of line and counterpoint, gesture and phrasing. Each decision Mr. Edwards made in his conducting was a joy to hear, particularly his choice of a relaxed tempo in the fugue in which he opted also for a lyrical rather than the more commonly detached interpretation - a fresh pespective that was welcome for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Even the Largo and Staccato movement, performed at the correct Baroque tempo, showed insights and a differing articulation from the norm that was again welcome, consisting of smooth gliding textures and clear harmonic control. The final Allegro, a difficult movement involving continuous, muscular bowing, featured yet again another scholarly and well-considered articulation scheme. This was fine concerto grosso playing, and we could certainly do with hearing more of these Corelli-inspired works from the Bach Society in the future.
Next followed the Bach German Magnificat BWV 10 which is less performed compared to the much better-known Latin text settings in D and E flat (itself with extra German text additions). This particular work is grouped among those Leipzig cantatas dating from the second year of his service (1724-25), when his output consisted almost exclusively of so-called chorale cantata cyclic compositions. Here is a vastly underrated composition, and with its four difficult arias and duets, expressive recitatves and two choruses, it stands, like the other chorale cantatas in this cycle, as a difficult work for all involved to perform. The opening chorus, making use of the German Magnificat hymn tune, was a shade slow, yet still quite appropriate and judiciously carried out. It was certainly well played by the ensemble even if it lacked only a little vitality in the articulation. The choir carried off this chorale cantata opening very well. The ensemble itself was buoyed here, and throughout the afternoon, by the excellent oboe playing of David Sussmann and Heather Haydu, giving life to this opening movement that needs the vitality of the oboe lines. These two excellent oboists are the first and last word in oboe playing in our province if not well beyond.
In the virtuouso da capo aria 'Herr, der du stark und machtig bist,' taken at a perfect tempo, Jonquil Koddo sang this difficult aria particularly well, with strong harmonic import that is not always present in recordings of this work. Ms. Koddo's 'wie wunderbar' melismas were well executed. It was too bad that the da capo section was cut in favour of simply playing the ritornello, as I should have liked to hear her sing the A section again. Mexican tenor Fancisco Sandoval has the perfect voice built for this repertoire and showed off his dramatic abilities quite well in the two recitatives bridging to both the bass aria 'Gewaltige stosst Gott' sung by Mark Hahle, and the concluding chorale. In 'Gewaltige,' Mr. Hahle brought considerable colour to this difficult work, as he does in everything he sings. Mr. Hahle's German is a pleasure to hear and every word is clear. Mezzo-soprano Laura Styler-Jones and Mr. Sandoval sang the difficult duet 'Er denket der Barmherzigkeit' with a splendid conviction for the text and an accuracy for its difficult chromatic angularity quite well. I am very partial to Ms. Styler-Jones' voice, rare for its beauty and timbre in this part of the world, and wish that she would sing more of this repertoire. She carried the entire duet remarkably well and one hopes to hear her repeatedly engaged for all the Bach alto arias performed by the CBFS. The concluding chorale was lovely and nicely executed with Mr. Edwards opting for a slower majestic tempo, fully justified nonetheless with his handling of the ensemble, bringing the cantata, and the first half of the concert, to an appropriately meditative close.
In the second half, the choir and orchestra provided a grand opening to the seldom-heard Magnificat by the early Romantic era master Felix Mendelssohn, in which he draws upon the contrapuntal techniques of Bach and the harmonic language of both Mozart and Haydn's choral music. The choir seemed to understand all this very well, and clearly had a good thing going here, inviting the possibility of more performances of Mendeslsohn's Bach-inspired choral music in future concerts. And, complete with full ensemble consisting of clearly executed lines by trumpet, timpani, bassoon and oboe, it would be hard to imagine who could not admire the brass and winds and their enjoyable use of coloristic blend with the vocal soloists and chorus throughout this delightful work that concluded the afternoon's concert.
After the choral opening, Ms. Koddo sang next, and was quite fine but perhaps a little less interpretatively secure in the long-breathed 'Quia respexit,' with its poignant and beautifully-rendered choral punctuations, than she was in her splendid accounting of her Bach aria. However in the lushly orchestrated 'Deposuit' terzetto, Ms. Koddo sang with angelic beauty while Ms. Styler-Jones interpreted the 'esurientes implevit bonis' section very well, particularly at the words 'dimisit inanes' with appropriate harmonic balance and fine expression. The trio, which also included Mr. Sandoval in fine voice, provided a highlight moment this afternoon when they sang a particularly difficult section of a cappella writing that was truly lovely.
But the afternoon's best moment came in the concluding two choruses, which saw the choir rise to great heights with an impressive and exhilerating rendering of the final choral fugue. One audience member gasped 'Wow' at the end of the fugue, an appropriate reaction indeed that earned a deserved standing ovation from many members of the audience to conclude this rousing work and wonderful afternoon. This well-programmed concert, carried off with hard work and considerable aplomb, reflects Mr. Edwards' excellent directorial vision of where he has taken the Bach Society in its recent history, and we look forward to more from both him and the ensemble in the very near future and the next twenty-five years to come.
PRAISE FOR B MINOR MASS PERFORMANCE
20TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT
Calgary Herald Letter to the Editor
April 30, 2009
The Calgary Bach Festival Society celebrated its 20th anniversary the weekend of April 25-26. The volunteer society mounted a full-fledged performance of the greatest work, the Mass in B minor, of the greatest composer of all time. It used its own choir and singers from other city choir and five soloists. With a professional orchestra drawn from Calgary musicians, guest conductor Leonard Ratzlaff had 100 men and women on the narrow stage of Grace Presbyterian Church. It was an exquisite performance, arguably the best Bach concert ever given in this city. A nearly full house rewarded the performers with prolonged applause....
- Albert Jacobs, Calgary