The Columbia Pro Cantare sings Rutter’s Requiem…

March 20, 2014 at 6:46 pm (Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Music)

…and more – much more, in a rich and varied program presented this past Sunday.

The first part of the concert consisted of shorter works, primarily by lesser known composers, with one of the most famous, not to mention beloved, making a delightful appearance toward the end.

Here is “L’Amero Saro Costante” from Il Re Pastore by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The soprano is Kiri te Kanawa

Our vocalist was the lovely and gifted Laura Whittenberger. She has the kind of clear, silvery soprano voice that I love. Here, she sings Susanna’s aria from The Marriage of Figaro:

The remainder of this portion of the concert consisted of three works each by Czech composers Josef Bohuslav Foerster and Zenek Fibich; it concluded with a piece for harp and organ by Grandjany.

Here is Aria in Classic style by the French harpist and composer Marcel Grandjany:

I did not have much luck searching for the pieces by Foerster and Fibich, although I did find several performances of “Poem,” from At Twilight by Fibich. Written in 1893, this unabashedly romantic waltz is redolent of old Europe. It could serve as an elegy for a world destroyed by the conflagrations of the twentieth century.

The version of “Poem” that we heard on Sunday was scored for violin and piano and played by two outstanding local musicians,  pianist Alison Gatwood and violinist Ronald Mutchnik.  Mutchnik is a superb musician, whose playing I’ve often enjoyed at the Bach In Baltimore performances. Because of a recently sustained  injury to his foot, he had to play while seated, with his foot propped up on cushions. Nevertheless, play he did, and beautifully. I’m grateful to him for his show-must-go-on fortitude, and I wish him a  speedy recovery.

I love Marek Stilec, the young conductor in the above video. It’s obvious he’s got his whole heart and soul in this music. Since I first found this video several days ago I’ve been watching it – and breaking my own heart over it – again and again.

Two sacred pieces were included in this portion of the program: Foerster’s Stabat Mater and Beatus Vir by Fibich. The Foerster piece was stately and somber, while the Fibich was radiantly gorgeous. I’ve not been able to find either of these works on YouTube or Amazon.

The Beatus Vir in particular I long to hear again. My husband, ace online researcher and fan of Fibich’s music, also came up empty on this one. I then consulted the program notes, where I found this:

Toward the end of his life Fibich destroyed all his church msic with some few exceptions. “Beatus Vir” for soprano, choir, organ and violin solo was discovered in Prague by a Czech associate of the Pro Cantare.

It does not say exactly when this felicitous discovery was made. I suspect the piece has yet to be recorded.

Zdenek Fibich  1850-1900

Zdenek Fibich 1850-1900

Josef Bohuslav Foerster  1859-1951

Josef Bohuslav Foerster 1859-1951

After the intermission came the Requiem by John Rutter. Rutter is one of Britain’s greatest living composers. He wrote this work in 1985, in memory of his father, who had passed away the previous year. The Requiem consists of seven movements: Requiem Aeternam, Psalm 130: Out of the Deep, Pie Jesu, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Psalm 23: The Lord Is My Shepherd, and Lux Aeterna.

I’ve provided links above to to the second through sixth movements of this piece, as performed by the Monteverdi Choir Wurzburg.  Here is the opening movement:

This is an intensely moving work, beautiful and peace giving. The performance by the Columbia Pro Cantare chorus under the direction of Frances Motyca Dawson, with Laura Whittenberger, organist Donald Fries, harpist Jacqueline Pollauf, and the accompanying chamber orchestra was outstanding. But then, we have come to expect no less from these wonderful concerts.

John Rutter

John Rutter

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