(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
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.
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.