Concert Review: The new vocal ensemble, almost Brahms

This ensemble is a small choir whose voices sound as though handpicked for sheer vocal beauty.

By URY EPPSTEIN
February 6, 2012 22:23
1 minute read.
Choir (illustrative)

Choir 390. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

 
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ABrahms-entitled program was presented by the (still, since 1993) New Vocal Ensemble, conducted by Yuval Ben- Ozer. One half of the works were indeed by Brahms. The other half – by Palestrina, Schutz, Bach and Schubert – had an influence on Brahms’s music, the conductor claimed. This influence was not always quite so obvious. However, since all these pieces were fascinating, little-known motets, psalms and mass movements, the audience did not feel misled but enjoyed these rarely performed gems, regardless of whether they had actually influenced Brahms or not.

This ensemble is a small choir whose voices sound as though handpicked for sheer vocal beauty. Small as the choir is, each voice can be heard independently but, nevertheless, blending in together perfectly well, with accurate balance and intonation and meticulous transparency, even in intricate polyphonic textures.

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Subtle or strongly contrasting nuances of dynamics injected life into the music, and clearcut articulation made the rendition sound intelligent and impressively conveyed the often complex content of the music and the text.

The program’s highlight was Brahms’s Song of Destiny. After a gripping turbulence, the profoundly depressing message of suffering humans being cast down into the Uncertain was expressed with moving intensity.

The orchestral part, arranged for piano by the composer, was performed by Timur Shapira with remarkable competence.

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