Vocal Fantasy Festival - YMCA, Jerusalem

This unjustifiably almost-forgotten work was composed by the equally almost forgotten Schütz, whose work has largely remained under the formidable shadow of Bach.

By URY EPPSTEIN
July 29, 2019 22:56
1 minute read.
The facade of the Jerusalem YMCA

The facade of the Jerusalem YMCA. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

For one who was impressed by the grandeur of Verdi’s monumental Requiem, it may come as a surprise that the Israeli premiere of another Requiem composed several hundred years earlier by Heinrich Schütz could have been presented as part of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra’s Vocal Fantasy Festival, by the Collegium Choro Music Riga, conducted by Maris Kupcs.

This unjustifiably almost-forgotten work was composed by the equally almost forgotten Schütz, whose work has largely remained under the formidable shadow of Bach. 

Without exuberant drama, this Requiem appropriately sounds solemn and expresses contagiously profound belief. The German language may strike one as somewhat uncommon, but then Latin was not a common language in German Protestant churches. The singers’ German pronunciation was perfect, though, and voices sounded perfectly transparent and caressing, even when sung loud. 

This performance lived up to what one expects of a festival. The sensation, however, was the Israeli premiere of Handel’s oratorio Esther, performed in Hebrew. Handel, however, one of the greatest oratorio composers of all times, deserves the respect of having his works performed faithfully to his own scores, not in a rearrangement according to “anything you can do, I can do better.”

In the title role, Nonta Martinsone’s charming soprano changed into a persuasive force in her duo with the king. Ansis Betins’s tenor was not majestic, but a lover king. Nerijus Masevicius’ dark-timbred menacing bass, as Haman, sounded appropriately frightening. The splendid performance concluded, Handel-like, with a glorious Hallelujah, performed excitingly by the ­­­­­­Riga Choir with the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra.


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