Classical Review: JBO

If an orchestra cannot afford six competent solo singers, it would be well advised to include a less demanding work in its repertoire.

By URY EPPSTEIN
November 2, 2011 21:59
1 minute read.
David Shemer at the Piano

David Shemer Piano 311. (photo credit: Courtesy JBO)

 
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Strange as it may appear, an Israeli premiere, with period instruments, of an 18th century work by Bach is still possible nowadays. A case in point is his “music drama” The Contest Between Phoebus and Pan, performed by the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, conducted by David Shemer, in its season’s opening concert. This is also one of the rare works where the usually solemn Bach permitted himself some humor.

Having six solo singers function as a choir may be economical, but can hardly substitute for the choral sound Bach presumably had in mind when he indicated a choir in his score. Bach, after all, deserves credit for being aware of the difference between a full chorus and six soloists.

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Among the solo singers, Oded Reich was noteworthy for his sonorous bass-baritone, his communicative rendition of the role of Pan, and as the only one whose enunciation of the German text was understandable.

David Nortman displayed an appealing and well-polished tenor.

If an orchestra cannot afford six competent solo singers, it would be well advised to include a less demanding work in its repertoire.

In Suite No. 3, as a curtain-riser, tempi were much faster than elegant courtly dances would suggest, even though Bach did not intend his music to be played for actual dancing. The trumpets required some taming by the conductor in order not to overshadow the strings most of the time.

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