By Edward Kliszus
On stage at Carnegie Hall was Maestro Kent Tritle with superb soloists, orchestra, and the Oratorio Society of New York with Bach’s Magnificat and Mozart’s Requiem. From the Magnificat’s opening notes, the ensemble transported listeners into the intricate structures of Bach’s musical universe, a world of harmonies, expressive power, and profound pieties.
Jubilant and Celebratory
Through Tritle’s steady hand, the ensemble expressed J. S. Bach’s remarkable composition, honoring and projecting this musical setting of the Canticle of Mary. The Oratorio Society masterfully portrayed the distinctive characters and structures of the 12 movements, ranging from jubilant and celebratory to mournful and penitential.
Through the artistry of tonight’s soloists, choral ensemble, and orchestra, contrapuntal voices interweaved and interlocked, creating synergistic, hypnotic effects. The texturally rich choral passages poured with overlapping phrases and rhythmic variations. The ornate and expressive vocal lines gave way to sparkling instrumentation, with intricately layered orchestration that was lush and refined—every moment of tonight’s Magnificat reflected Bach’s profound musical genius. The Magnificat is essential listening for any lover of the art of music.
Tonight’s singers were superb. Soprano Susanna Phillips transported listeners to a world of ethereal beauty and sublime transcendence. Phillips’s solo in the opening movement, “Et exsultavit,” was a joyful declaration of praise and gratitude. Her solo lines soared with ease and grace above the choral textures, emphasizing lyrical exaltation.
In the “Esurientes impleit bonis” in a vocal counterpoint with two flutes and continuo, mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford evoked a delightful, introspective meditation on humility and the meek. Her rich, warm timbre perfectly captured the reverent, celebratory mood of the piece as she moved effortlessly between complex runs and expressive leaps.
Righteous Anger and Rebellion
Tenor Eric Carey’s solo in “Deposuit potentes” conveyed a fiery denunciation of worldly power and oppression. The purity and clarity of Carey’s tone, combined with his exceptional breath control and dynamic range, facilitated his articulation of emphatic rhythms and angular melodies. Carey evoked a sense of righteous anger and rebellion against tyranny while emphasizing the richest and most poignant moments.
Glory of Heavenly Largess
Bass Joseph Beutel’s powerful performance of “Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est” celebrated the gravity and greatness of heavenly forces through the narrator’s expressive vocal declamation. With his rich, powerful voice, Beutel developed intensity and energy, underscoring the command and glory of heavenly largess. With his voice’s deep, magnificent resonance, Beutel captured the text’s essence with every note and phrase, delivering it with a stirring, powerful, and emotive sonic force.
Masked in Mystery
After intermission, on stage with hands raised, Maestro Tritle cued the beginning of Mozart’s Requiem, K. 626. This work is masked in mystery. Commissioned by an anonymous patron, Mozart may have composed the work for himself as he faced mortality.
The Requiem is deeply rooted in the traditions of the Catholic Requiem Mass while showcasing Mozart’s unique creative brilliance. Performed as it was tonight, the Requiem revealed its brilliance through contrapuntal melodies, intricate harmonies, and profoundly emotive language. Tritle honored Mozart’s artistic intentions, crafting a highly dramatic and deeply moving musical experience.
Sounds gently ascended from the stage as the work opened with its famed, haunting choral introduction, set in D minor. As one strained to absorb each perfect note, it was breathtaking as the solemn, ominous tones announced death’s arrival.
The choir sang as harmonies rose and fell in a mournful lament. The music gradually intensified, with the addition of orchestral instruments, until the full chorus enters with a mighty cry of “Requiem aeternam dona eis” (Grant them eternal rest). The opening of Mozart’s Requiem was a masterful, emotional demonstration of the composer’s profound talent for evoking complex emotions through his music.
The Requiem continued with continued fine work by tonight’s vocal soloists. The chorus and orchestra commanded the venue with excellence and aplomb. Tritle’s awe-inspiring combination of a choir, soloists, and orchestra achieved a profound sense of heartbreak and grief while hinting at hope and peace.
Refined and Precise
Maestro Tritle led the Oratorio Society chorus and orchestra with assurance. Tritle’s conducting was expressive, refined, and precise. Choral entrances were well-executed, and blend, pitch, expression, and articulation were excellent.
A full house for this concert was not surprising. Besides the superb performances we have come to expect from Kent Tritle, hearing the Magnificat and the Requiem in the same concert was an extraordinary treat. Tonight’s performance was a sublime musical, artistic, and spiritual experience that shall be remembered by many for years to come.
Oratorio Society of New York
Kent Tritle, Music Director
1140 Avenue of the Americas, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10036–5803
For Information and tickets, go to OSNY.ORG
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH Magnificat, BMV 243
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Requiem, K. 626
57th Street and Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10019
For Information and tickets, go to CarnegieHall.org
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Jay Campbell, Cello and Conor Hanick, Piano, Music Sacra Presents SuRound, the American Classical Orchestra presents Healing Bach, and MasterVoices performs at Central Synagogue.