Music Review: Abu Ghosh Music Festival

Voices sounded as though picked for sheer beauty.

Jauna Musika Choir
Kiryat Yearim Church
May 20
Mostly Christian liturgical music, performed by mainly Israeli and some foreign guest musicians in a Catholic church of an Arab village – this is the Abu Ghosh Music Festival’s formula for peaceful collaboration.
The present festival’s guest musicians were the Lithuanian Jauna Musika choir, conducted by Vaclova Augustinas. Local audiences seem, for some strange reason, to be more familiar with Western and Central European music ensembles than with those of the Baltic countries. The tremendously high artistic level of this choir came, therefore, as quite a surprise to many.
Voices sounded as though picked for sheer beauty. Clear sopranos, soft, gentle, unstrained and never shrill, even on the highest notes, soared radiantly over the medium voices in Bach’s motet “Singet dem herrn ein neues Lied” (“Sing unto the Lord a new song”). The balance of voices was perfect. Articulation of phrases was clear-cut. Phrase endings were achieved by a gradual diminishing of volume until vanishing into thin air, and never abrupt. Intonation was accurate without sounding pedantic.
In Mendelssohn’s motet “Nicht meinem namen” (“Not Unto Me, Oh Lord, Give Honor”) the baritones had a welcome chance to display their sonorous voices. Coloraturas were flexibly lubricated. It concluded with a contagiously jubilant “Hallelujah.”
Alessandro Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater dramatically and with intense emotion revived the grieving Mother’s despair at being doomed to witness her son’s brutal execution. The final “Amen” was not an afterthought, as happens so often, but a majestic conclusion of human suffering as described in music. In terms of choral singing, this Lithuanian choir was a dream come true.

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