Classical Review: JBO's Sacred Music

A critique of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra’s season opening concert at the Jerusalem Theater, October 23.

Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra
(photo credit: Courtesy)
'Missa Solemnis’ is not the title of Bach’s Lutheran Mass BV 234, performed in the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra’s season opening concert, conducted by David Shemer, but solemn it was, as performed in this concert, even more than absolutely necessary.
The Barrocade Vocale, a small and still new ensemble, sounded thin and cautious, divesting the work of the small emotional content it has, and rendering even the Gloria and the Cum Sancto Spiritu with too noble restraint. Yair Polishook’s warm baritone sounded appealing, Ye’ela Avital’s bright soprano soared effortlessly over orchestra and choir, but Avital Dery’s pleasant mezzo-soprano was rather too small for the dimensions of the Henry Crown Hall.
Matters improved noticeably in Handel’s Dixit Dominus (“The Lord said,” Psalm 109).
Handel, incorrigibly, could not and would not conceal, even in a work of sacred music, the fact that at heart he was an opera composer.
His dramatic energies and operatic effects inspired the choir to shed its initial indifference, and injected abandon, liveliness and, at long last, audible volume into its singing.
The extremely demanding coloraturas, though, still remained beyond the choir’s and the solo singers’ capacities, but they got mercifully drowned in the rendition’s enthusiasm. The male quartet, blending in harmoniously with the two female solos, was one of the performance’ highlights.
The well-rehearsed orchestra contributed the required energy and cohesiveness.