Classical Review: Abu Ghosh Festival

The festival’s crowning glory was Bach’s Mass in B minor, in its closing concert.

October 24, 2011 22:12
1 minute read.
Classical Review:  Abu Ghosh Festival

Abu Ghosh festival/church. (photo credit: Rafi Deloya)

Christian sacred music, performed by mostly Israeli musicians in the church of an Arab village – this is the Abu Ghosh Festival’s formula for peaceful coexistence, at least in the field of music.

The festival’s crowning glory was Bach’s Mass in B minor, in its closing concert.

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The rendition of such a monumental work by local musicians is an ambitious undertaking. Yet, it was an inspiring performance by the Collegium Singers, and by at least some of the soloists.

Avner Itai, first and foremost a choir conductor, indeed made the choir the leading role, with a rich, perfectly balanced sound, meticulous transparency and perfect articulation. Above all, persuasive identification with the text, intense emotional expression and extreme subtlety of interpretation cast a spell over the audience.

The forceful contrast between the sorrowful Crucifixus (“He was crucified”) and the immediately following joyous, exuberant Et resurrexit (“And he resurrected”), the imperativesounding, as perhaps it should be, Osanna (“Deliver us!”), the festive Sanctus (“Holy”) and the intensely imploring concluding prayer Dona nobis pacem (“Give us Peace”) made a profound impression.

The Israel Chamber Orchestra blended in excellently with the chorus. The solo passages, such as the violin in Laudamus te, the flute in Domine Deus and Benedictus, and the oboe were particularly enchanting.

The solo singers were the performance’s weaker link, except for David Nortman’s appealing tenor and, in Agnus Dei, Einat Aronstein’s bright soprano.

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