Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bach B Minor Mass

The New Trinity Baroque and the Georgia Tech Chamber Choir presented the Bach Mass in B Minor (  This is a monumental work that demands artistry and stamina from instrumentalists and singers alike. 

I was fortunate to sit next to a voice instructor whose son was in the Choir.  We talked about the strengths of each singer, which I will share later. 

The performance was held at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. St. Bart’s is not a great performance space.  It is rather small with some of the most uncomfortable chairs imaginable.  Pews would be far easier to tolerate.  In addition, the way the chairs are lined up, the site lines are terrible.  At best you get to see the head of the balding guy in front of you.  The acoustics are reverberate but not as to muddy the sound.  The modern architecture is, to my tastes, mediocre.  It will not win awards for excitement, although there is a large floor to ceiling bay window which must be wonderful in the daytime. 

The music is so sublime that the venue shortcomings must be overlooked.  It is tricky to present a choir with a period instrument orchestra since the sounds of the latter tend to be more muted that one hears with a modern orchestra.  Thus, it would be easy for the singers to overpower the orchestra.  Conductor Predrag Gosta kept the balances reasonable.  Because of the shallow performance space available, the soundstage was quite wide, but with little depth.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bit unusual. 
There were 22 instrumentalists,  all playing baroque instruments.  This number is quite a bit larger than the usual NTB complement.  There was a tremendous solo by Paul Hopkins ( playing the Corno da Caccia.
Bach specifies this instrument for parts which require the same virtuosity as the trumpet parts. There is no definitive definition of the Corno da Caccia (hunting horn), so the instrument shown here is based on the requirements of the music that specifies it. By comparison, the large hunting horns which were carried over the shoulder would have necessitated the pitch to be an octave lower, and the music of Bach would then need to be played on the 16th harmonic (partial) and above making it very 'risky'.  (From : Hopkins played this difficult instrument without fault.  His performance was near perfection.

Another stand out solo was by Marianne Pfau on the Baroque Oboe.

 I liked the continuo used by Gosta.  It included the Baroque Cello, Violone, Baroque Bassoon, Chitarone, and Chamber Organ.  There was no harpsichord and it wasn't missed. 

I am not an expert on choral singing, but the Georgia Tech singers seemed competent enough.  Sometimes I heard some really harsh “K’s” and hard “C’s”, however.

The soloists were Wanda Yang Temko, soprano; Terry Barber, countertenor; Adam Kirkpatrick, tenor; and Paul Max Tipton, bass.  I like Yang Temko’s voice, although my singing coach friend thought her tone was not warm.  I asked it that was a fault of the performer of a function of her instrument.  Apparently it’s a little of both.  Mr. Barber is a wonderful countertenor.  Kirkpatrick is a solid tenor.  I personal thought that Tipton’s voice was a bit thin, but again the coach said he has a very good bass voice.  Shows you what I know.  Apropos of nothing, Yang Tempko wore the same dress that perennial prom queen Reese Witherspoon wore the Oscars.  I saw that while working out at Golds. 

St. Bart’s was packed.  People were seated in hallways.  Ticket procuring was done in a hallway before entering the sanctuary.  It is definitely not large enough an area to handle the crowd that showed up.
Predrag Gosta is a talented and charming person.  I assume that because of limited resources, he does a bit of everything, from crowd control, to videotaping, to schmoozing, to lecturing, and, oh yes, conducting.  I admire his enthusiasm in doing it all. 

It was wonderful to hear the Bach B Minor played by such a competent group. 

No comments:

Post a Comment