In his program note to Papa Bach's B-minor Mass, which interrupted the Cantata Singers' season devoted to composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (himself a notable Bach conductor), music director David Hoose wrote of Bach's "meeting of naked emotion and limitless skill." There was certainly naked emotion in this performance. The monumental opening Kyrie eleison started coolly but gradually built to an overwhelming intensity, and just before intermission, the breathlessness of the "Cum Sancto Spiritu" captured Bach's outburst of jubilation. It was mostly the other fast sections that worked best, though most moving was the final "Dona nobis pacem," which began in hushed awe and grew larger, more confident, and more steadily — limitlessly — expansive.
But much of what came between these great moments seemed a little square and solemn. The outstanding soloists (sopranos Lynn Torgove and Karol Ryczek, alto Janna Baty, tenor Frank Kelley, baritone Dana Whiteside, bass Mark Andrew Cleveland) included some of Boston's most expressive singers. But even they seemed to be singing as if they were in church, not as if the words had immediate personal resonance. The usually excellent chorus sounded a little fuzzy, with less than the crispest diction. For me, the real heroes were the obbligato players: Danielle Maddon (violin), Jacqueline DeVoe (flute), Peggy Pearson (oboe and oboe d'amore), and Neil Deland (horn). They accompanied the arias and duets with more naked emotion than I heard in the singing.
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