Los Angeles Music Review: BACH: B MINOR MASS (Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall)

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by Tom Chaits on January 29, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles

B MINOR MASSIVE

Los Angeles Master Chorale's BACH: B MINOR MASS, Jan 25, 2014. Photo by Jamie Pham.Bach’s Mass in B Minor is big. Really big. Compiled from new and recycled compositions over the first half of the 18th Century (completed in 1749) the piece consists of 27 movements in 5 parts. The full mass was not performed as a whole until nearly a century after Bach’s death. The Los Angeles Master Chorale, celebrating its 50th anniversary, first performed the piece for their inaugural concert in 1965 at the newly opened Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (or as the late/great female impersonator Charles Pierce dubbed it: ”Dot’s Place”). Now it’s back bigger and better than ever in the Chorale’s home at Disney Hall.

Los Angeles Master Chorale's BACH: B MINOR MASS, Jan 25, 2014. Photo by Jamie Pham.For the occasion, musical director/conductor Grant Gershon assembled 115 singers, 12 of them soloists, and a 50-member orchestra with an expanded string section. The Kyrie got off to a bit of a shaky start as the orchestra overpowered the chorale, but the problem was quickly rectified and the momentum continued to build through the rest of the Kyrie straight through the lengthy Gloria to the intermission. The second half started off like gangbusters with the “Credo in unum Deum” sung with ever increasing passion until it reached a fever pitch only to be counterbalanced by the deeply moving and reverential “Crucifixus.” Then it was off to the races again with each movement sounding more glorious than its predecessor grabbing the audience and not letting go until the final note.

Los Angeles Master Chorale's BACH: B MINOR MASS, Jan 25, 2014. Photo by Jamie Pham.The chorale has never been in better voice and their rich full tones filled the hall.  The soloists were accomplished and well chosen. Two of the most unique voices—soprano Suzanne Anderson and mezzo soprano Adriana Manfredi—were unfortunately drowned out by the orchestra during the Kyrie, making me wonder if their placement within the orchestra, as opposed to the front of the stage, had something to do with it. But then Vincent Robles had no problem filling the hall with his resounding baritone during the Credo. Saving the best for last, the final soloists truly captured the depth and enormity of the event: Tenor Pablo Corá was mesmerizing in his rendition of the “Benedictus,” and mezzo soprano Janelle DeStefano soared into the heavens during her performance of “Agnus Dei.”

Los Angeles Master Chorale's BACH: B MINOR MASS, Jan 25, 2014. Photo by Jamie Pham.The orchestra was stupendous. The extra strings made the melodies as soothing as a Sunday stroll in the sun. The scaled down brass section (1 horn and 3 trumpets) made itself known in stellar fashion, blaring its processionals with commitment and triumph. Featured soloists were all amazing, but flutist Geri Rotella and cellist John Waltz were real standouts, and had the crowd hanging on their every note and sitting up in appreciation of their considerable acumen.

Sometimes big is just big, but sometimes, as was the case with this Bach Mass, bigger really is better. Disney Hall was filled with majestic music and the crowd floated home on a cloud.

Los Angeles Master Chorale's BACH: B MINOR MASS, Jan 25, 2014. Photo by Jamie Pham.
photos by Jamie Pham

Los Angeles Master Chorale
Bach: B Minor Mass
Walt Disney Concert Hall
played on January 25 & 26, 2014
for future LAMC events, call 213-972-7282
or visit www.LAMC.org

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