Silent Film Music and other Sounding Off

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Since December I've been writing a weekly column for the Lakeville Journal in northwest CT. I was looking forward to writing about the Crescendo Chorus' tribute to Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn on Sunday afternoon at Trinity Church in Lime Rock but due to schedule conflicts, I only caught the second half, so the paper will not publish these comments. For the record...

What I did hear was a sublime hour of ravishingly beautiful vocal music, interspersed with readings of letters exchanged between brother and sister and some of their circle of friends and family. Both music and letters ranged from poignant to exuberant, with the highlight being Felix's setting of Psalm 100, which calls for a solo quartet in addition to the choir. The soloists included the glorious soprano Julianne Baird, and their blend was exquisitely balanced. The chorus sounded better than I have ever heard them, with a rich, round tone, perfect diction and consistently in fine tune. In Psalm 22 the lines were lean and clear and the eight-part harmonies had both depth and transparency.

The two pieces by Fanny were charming, especially the solo song “Die Nonne,” sung by Ms. Baird and sensitively accompanied by Kevin Jones, but not in the same league as the works of her brother, whose music soars into angelic realms phrase after phrase. Tragically both composers died of strokes in their mid-40's. What might have resulted from longer lives staggers the imagination. The force behind this whole concert was the treasured conductor, Christine Gevert, whose passion and musicality infused all the pieces with drive and spiritually satisfying profundity. Some muddiness of attack and choral pitch crept into Psalm 91 and the Bach chorale that ended the concert, but not enough to disturb the overall impression of thoughtful, careful attention to detail.


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