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CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
American Bach Soloists / Friday, April 16, 2010
Jeffrey Thomas, music director
Mary Wilson, soprano
Johanna Novom, violin
Corey Jamason, harpsichord

Mary Wilson

MARY WILSON'S VIRTUOSITY SHINES IN AMERICAN BACH SOLOISTS' MARIN CONCERT

by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, April 16, 2010

The American Bach Soloists performed their final concert in the current series April 16 at St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere, and the large audience was treated to glorious works by Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. Each piece showcased a soloist who performed with members of the ABS orchestra. Rather than having a full orchestra, with many players on a each part, conductor Jeffrey Thomas chose to have two instrumentalists on each of the string parts. There were twelve strings, harpsichord, oboe and recorder in the mix.

Soprano Mary Wilson was the shining star of the soloists, opening the program with Vivaldi’s motet In furore iustissimae irae (In the furor of your most just wrath). The motet begins with the strings’ playing a dashing and crashing introduction (reminiscent of his famous “Winter” Concerto) symbolizing the descent into Hell. Ms. Wilson then entered over the thundering ensemble, echoing passionately the words “In the furor of your most just wrath you might act with strength.” Her voice was so perfectly matched to the strings, there seemed to be nothing she couldn’t do, evoking wrath, fury and tears. The audience was enthralled with the virtuosity of her singing. Every emotion was wrung from the piece as the music changed from dramatic Allegros to weeping Adagios. In one aria Ms Wilson sang in unison with a solo violin, ending on a pianissimo. On the da capo she sang the last phrase up an octave – in her highest register – and ended in a breathtaking pianissimo. The concluding “Alleluia” of the Vivaldi was a coloratura masterpiece for voice, sung with perfection.

Sandwiched between two vocal works on the program were two concerti by Bach, the first was his Concerto in D Minor for Harpsichord and Orchestra. Bach was the first composer to write a keyboard concerto and the great piano concertos of the next century owe their legacy to him. Corey Jamason was the soloist. The string players stood in a great semicircle around the magnificent harpsichord, with its Chinese red lid interior brightly lit and open to the audience. The work began with all the instruments playing in unison. Suddenly the harpsichord broke away into its own part, with strings punctuating the rhythmic pulses. At one point the orchestra suddenly stopped, in a grand pause, and the harpsichord then launched into a brilliant cadenza. Mr. Jamason negotiated the cascades of Bach’s counterpoint with mastery, clarity and passion.

After the intermission violinist Johanna Novom soloed in Bach’s Concerto in A Minor for Violin and Orchestra. Ms Novom is a recent winner of the ABS Young Artist’s CompetitioN in, and has a warm tone and fine phrasing that underscores her mastery of baroque style. The Andante was especially moving, with the low strings beginning and the solo violin entering with an achingly beautiful melody. The Allegro, with its galloping rhythms, ended the piece with the violin playing brilliant runs above the strings.

The final piece presented Ms. Wilson for a second time in Handel’s long secular cantata Delirio Amoroso (A Lover’s Delirium). Oboe and recorder (both played flawlessly by Debra Nagy, another winner of the ABS Young Artist’s Competition) joined the orchestra. While the young Handel was in Rome this was probably his first major work. The cantata is very operatic, with displays of an extremely wide range of vocal and instrumental emotion. Handel, who became the supreme master of the art of operatic composition while in Rome, was forced to call his operas “cantatas” because the reigning Pope banned all opera performance. Because of this, his cantatas from this period are operatic in character. The most beautiful aria from this work was “For you I left the light,” the soprano accompanied by a solo cello. Throughout the piece Ms. Wilson’s singing was transcendent. At the conclusion of the Handel the audience gave her a long standing ovation, justly deserved. Seldom does one hear a voice as marvelous as hers.