An outstanding event at Succoth's annual Abu Ghosh Music Festival was the performance of the Stuttgart Chamber Choir, conducted by Frieder Bernius.
A great surprise in its program was Fanny Mendelssohn. Her songs are rarely performed and therefore almost unknown. Despite being the sister of Felix - or perhaps just because of that - the difference between these siblings in style and character is striking. While Felix mostly attempts an almost classic balance of form and expression, Fanny's emotions and musical langugage are excited and unrestrained. The music in Beautiful Foreign Country sounds almost as drunk as Eichendorff's text suggests.
The choir's performance was choral wishful thinking come true. Radiant yet soft sopranos even in the highest registers, sonorous forceful basses, fabulous balance, perfect purity of intonation and flexible dynamics joined together to make this choir's singing an artistic achievement of choral aesthetic. Intense emotional identification with the text was remarkable particularly in the contemporary pieces from Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur's Cantiques des Cantiques.
On another continent, an off-the-beaten-track feature was music from Baroque Peru, presented by the Phoenix Ensemble of period instruments and the Oratorio Choir, conducted by Myrna Herzog.
Most of this 17th Century Peruvian music almost never crossed the Atlantic and remained unkonwn in Europe. Besides some common denominators of this and European Baroque music, such as a certain solemnity in Cusicuinin's Processional Hymn, sung in Quechua language, and highly intricate polyphonic textures in Tomas de Torrajon's Magnificat, much of this sacred music sounds more joyous than could have been imagineable in conservative Europe of the time.
It was in this infectuously exuberant spirit and meticulously polished rendition that this intriguing reperoire was presented.