“On wings of song…” another memorable evening with the Columbia Pro Cantare

October 27, 2009 at 1:58 am (Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Music)

Saturday night’s musical evening began with Mendelssohn’s lovely Auf Flugeln Des Gesanges (“On Wings of Song”). Tenor Charles was Reid was accompanied on the piano by Alison Matuskey.

Cahrles Reid

Charles Reid

Alison Matuskey

Alison Matuskey

This was followed by four selections from Haydn’s Aus Des Ramlers Lyrischer Blumenlese (“Ramler’s Lyrical Flower Harvest”) performed by the Pro Cantare Chamber Singers, led by their charismatic conductor Frances Motyca Dawson (and accompanied at the piano by Ms. Matuskey). This music was completely unfamiliar to both Ron and me, and we were completely charmed by it.

Ron commented that Franz Joseph Haydn is in a sense the founding architect of classical music, having given us, among other treasures, the string quartet and the symphonic form. In a sense, he made it possible for Mozart, Beethoven, and so many others to give full expression to their genius.

Click here for the Haydn pieces we heard at the concert. Scroll down to where the selections are numbered. ( The chamber group did numbers 2, 4, 8, and 12.) Click on “Play”; then sit back and enjoy the music – and the accompanying visual effects.

This part of the program concluded with a Cantata by Handel: Lucrezia: O numi eterni (“O eternal deities”). This highly dramatic work was amazingly rendered by mezzo soprano Mary Ann McCormick. Accompanied by cello and organ, Ms McCormick’s vocals soared as she convincingly portrayed Lucrectia’s agony. One does not often have the opportunity to hear this highly ornamental baroque music sung live, so this was a special moment, made more special still by this splendid singer.

Mary Ann McCormick

Mary Ann McCormick

The rape of Lucretia is tragic, fascinating, and – to me, at least – somewhat enigmatic story. I never really knew it until I listened to Prof. Elizabeth Vandiver’s recounting of it in one of her lectures for the Teaching Company. When faced with an excruciating crisis, Lucretia acts in the most honorable way possible. Yet in the aftermath of the attack, she is resolved to kill herself.


Lucretia, by Veronese

Prof. Vandiver discourses on the reasoning behind that decision, but at this point,  I can’t recall the explanation. This is as good a reason as any to procure the CD set of those lectures and listen to them again!

Here is a section of the cantata sung by the late, much-revered Lorraine Hunt Lieberson:


As I said, the first part of the evening’s program was quite wonderful. But then, ah, then…

Mozart’s Requiem.

How could I have forgotten the power, majesty, and sheer beauty of this music? I hadn’t listened to it in its entirety for some time. But I was reminded by the superb performance of the Columbia Pro Cantare, the Festival Orchestra, the soloists, and probably most indispensably, Frances Motyca Dawson.

For the performance of this mighty work Saturday night, everything came together. The soloists were wonderful; the orchestra and chorus sounded superb. As we were leaving the auditorium – the James Rouse Theater, whose acoustics are outstanding – Ron and I agreed that you could schlep to the Kennedy Center, deal with traffic, confusing signage, and parking challenges, and not hear anything nearly this good. (To quote the always eloquent Ron: “Boy, they sure hit that one out of the ball park!”)

Here’s the opening of the Requiem. Karl Bohm leads the Vienna Symphony and Chorus:

This is the Confutatis and Lacrimosa, performed by the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi choir under the direction of John Eliot Gardner:

I’ve praised the Pro Cantare before, but last Saturday, they really outdid themselves. Bravo to them, and thank God for the gifts bestowed on posterity by these great men:

Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn

Haydn, Franz Joseph_small

Franz Joseph Haydn


George Frideric Handel


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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