Master Chorale wraps with a clever program of Baroque rarities

By Matthew Evan Taylor

Brett Karlin conducted the Master Chorale of South Florida in a Baroque program Saturday night at Trinity Cathedral in Miami.

Brett Karlin conducted the Master Chorale of South Florida in a Baroque program Saturday night at Trinity Cathedral in Miami.

The Master Chorale of South Florida’s “Bach & the Best of the Baroque” offered a clever program delivered expertly by the chorus and soloists Saturday night at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami. Conductor Brett Karlin did a fine job leading this large assemblage, over seventy people, in a mostly dynamic and satisfying performance.

Karlin engagingly explained the program’s conceit, which was centered around the passing of Johann Kuhnau, music director of the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. The concert featured works by the three candidates who applied to succeed Kuhnau in the prestigious St. Thomas post in order of the church’s preference – Georg Philipp Telemann, Christoph Graupner, and Johann Sebastian Bach. Ultimately, the church settled on Bach after the other two composers turned them down.

The chorus opens with the first section of Bach’s cantata No. 70 “Wachet! Betet!” which portends the second coming of Christ. The chorus ably negotiated the trickier aspects of the music, including the lightly articulated, rising opening line, first heard in the sopranos and altos. The coming judgment is further enhanced by the herald call of the trumpet, played wonderfully by Jeff Kaye.

In Kuhnau’s Ihr Himmel jubilirt von oben, the highlight was the aria “Es ist vollbracht.” Sung in a controlled and nuanced performance by countertenor Reginald L. Mobley, it was tenderly accompanied by bassoonist Mike DiGregorio, cellist Christopher Glansdorp, and organist Jared Peroune. Soprano Yulia Van Doren expertly delivered the intricate passagework called for in her solos.

Christoph Graupner is not that well known today but his Magnificat in C was a revelation—a well-balanced, virtuosic work that skillfully incorporated the solo quartet with the full chorus.

In “Magnificat anima mea,” for instance, Graupner carefully scored the full chorus and orchestra so that the audience could still clearly hear the quartet of soloists. He manages to set the text in such away that the soloists can sing comfortably and still be heard above the choir. This is particularly effective in a large cathedral where words are often rendered unintelligible by the booming reverberation of the room.

The Symphonia of Boca Raton backed up the Chorale capably and got a much-deserved moment in the spotlight with a witty and affectionate performance of Telemann’s Burlesque de Quixote, a Cervante-inspired suite for string orchestra.

The concert concluded with another offering from Bach, this time a full cantata, No. 131 “Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir” (Out of the depths I cry, Lord to thee). Soloists tenor Steven Soph and bass-baritone Paul Max Tipton were featured to great effect in this work. Their sensitive, heartfelt solos were well supported by the orchestra. The triumphant final “Gloria” ended the work and the evening with one more salvo from the full chorus and orchestra.

At times, the huge scale of the forces created minor coordination issues due to Trinity’s problematic acoustic. Overall, Karlin and the Master Chorale did a nice job in presenting an engaging concert.

The program will be repeated 4 p.m. Sunday at Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

Matthew Evan Taylor is a composer and performer in Miami. He is artist-in-residence at Cannonball Miami, where he is completing his first opera The Warrior’s Wives.

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Sun Apr 26, 2015
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