By Edward Kliszus
The Oratorio Society of New York’s performance with chorus and orchestra under the baton of Maestro Kent Tritle in Carnegie Hall honored the provenance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor (1749). With its world-renowned acoustics and beauty, Carnegie Hall was indeed the perfect choice to perform one of the finest works from the baroque canon.
Recreation of the Mind
Tonight’s performance of J. S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor reflected Bach’s creative genius and profound engagement with the traditions of the Lutheran Church. Indeed, to the incomparable executant Bach, heaven and hell were truths, not abstract concepts. Hence, he proposed that the final aim of music “should be none else but the glory of God and the recreation of the mind.” Notably, the Mass in B minor is Bach’s magnum opus to most music lovers.
Kent Tritle and The Oratorio Society preserved and maintained the work’s Bachian textures, presenting the Mass in perfect clarity. Furthermore, the performers articulated Bach’s masterful contrapuntal structures to project the intricate and interweaving musical lines that complement and enhance each other, characteristics particularly evident in the fugues.
The ensemble effectually created a rich, layered sound, and through Bach’s scoring of a double choir for many of the movements, projected a logic of antiphonal dialogue between choral segments. The chorus and orchestra indeed achieved the commensurate richness and complexity of the musical textures.
We clearly heard Bach’s employment of various other qualities, including homophonic textures that contrasted with contrapuntal textures, whereas two or more independent melodies appeared simultaneously to garner additional variety and contrast within the work.
This Mass in B minor is infrequently performed in churches from whence its roots originate. That is because It is a complex and demanding masterpiece of sacred music requiring skilled musicians and resources to perform effectively. In addition to the Mass’s religious provenance, it has become a work appreciated for its magnificent artistic merits and beauty, akin to works like Mozart’s Requiem and Ave Verum Corpus, Handel’s Messiah, or Arvo Pärt’s minimalist Spiegel im Spiegel.
Tritle is a champion of meaningful music and reveals to listeners the mysteries associated with collections of sounds emanating from an intensely personal, ephemeral art form. Hence, the work of the Oratorio Society under Tritle’s leadership is critical in ensuring works like the Mass in B minor are superbly performed and accessible in magnificent venues before large audiences. For tonight’s event, Tritle gathered and mobilized the finest talent to ensure his audience experienced Bach’s musical genius optimally performed.
Kent Tritle stands among many who champion essential and sometimes neglected musical works, including Leonard Bernstein, former conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Other luminaries include Sir Simon Rattle, music director of the London Symphony, Riccardo Chailly conductor of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, and Mariss Jansons, former conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Tonight’s vocal soloists did their part in projecting the intense meaning and beauty of the music through virtuoso performances. They included soprano Emily Donato, mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford, tenor Brian Giebler, and baritone Sidney Outlaw.
Noted among tonight’s coterie of excellent instrumental solo work were concertmaster Cenovia Cummins, principal flutist Bart Feller, principal oboist Diane Lesser, and the trumpet section with principal Maximilian Morel, Samuel Jones, and Matt Gasiorowski. The polished duo with impeccable intonation of principal cellist Arthur Fiacco, Jr., and principal bassist Roger Wagner was outstanding. Note that they frequently played musical lines in unison or an octave apart, thus adding a rich, full sound in the orchestra’s bass section.
Kent Tritle and The Oratorio Society ensured that the ineffable rapture of the music was ably expressed while articulating the vision, technique, Affektenlehre, and unparalleled harmonic sense of the music. We also experienced the intended fulfillment of harmonic tension and what one might consider to be Bach the Baroque in music. To conclude, the concert performance was breathtaking, the glorias were splendid, and the closing Dona nobis pacem was exquisite.
The Oratorio Society of New York performs J. S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor
57th Street and Seventh Avenue
New York NY
For info, go to https://www.carnegiehall.org/Events
Oratorio Society of New York
Kent Tritle, Music Director
1140 Avenue of the Americas, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10036–5803
For info, go to https://osny.org/
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of MasterVoices presents Iolanthe, the Art Bath Artist Salon Series, Musica Sacra at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and Kent Tritle in Concert