Soprano Clara Rottsolk, counter tenor Robin Blaze, tenor Arron Sheehan, Maestro Paul Goodwin and composer Caroline Shaw
(Peninsula Reviews photo prohibited by Carmel Bach Festival)
On Saturday evening, July 19, at Sunset Center we enjoyed the opening concert of the 2014 Carmel Bach Festival. Instead of a chilly foggy evening, it was warm and balmy, David Gordon gave one of his charming pre-concert lectures, the brass ensemble on the upper terrace was appropriately festive, the concert was spiritually uplifting, and we had an elegant post-concert reception courtesy of Alaska Airlines to which the entire audience and festival musicians were invited. It begs the question, how could it get any better?
Maestro Paul Goodwin, associate conductor Andrew Megill and assistant conductor John Koza were responsible for delivering opening night fine performances by the festival musicians featuring the festival orchestra, chorale and chorus, plus the evening’s soloists sopranos Dominique Labelle and Clara Rottsolk, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Aaron Sheehan and baritone Peter Harvey.
The concert featured two glorious Baroque works, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat, BWV 243 (including Christmas interpolations and the premiere of a new work commissioned by the CBF, Nunc Dimittis, by Caroline Shaw) and ending with Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria, RV 589. In the middle of this multi-faceted sandwich we heard something of a novelty, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Symphony in D Major, Wq 183/1, a galant masterpiece that seemed altogether too brief (it is always a good sign when the performance of a work leaves you wishing it had been longer).
Hearing Bach’s Magnificat is always a thrilling experience, and so it was on this occasion. In between the jubilant opening and closing choruses we heard some lovely arias (and some fine obbligato playing by CBF orchestra members). Soprano Clara Rottsolk was heard to excellent effect in Et exsultavit spiritus meus, and soprano Dominique Labelle impressed us with her lovely performance of Quia respexit humilitatem (accompanied by a beautiful oboe d’amore obbligato). Countertenor Robin Blaze and tenor Aaron Sheehan sounded especially fine in their performance of Et misericorda, as did baritone Peter Harvey in his very moving aria, Quia fecit mihi magna.
Hearing the work composed for the Festival by Caroline Shaw, Nunc Dimittis interpolated between the last two sections of the Magnificat was a very satisfying experience. This brief work produced a powerful cumulative effect and seemed so natural in its placement in the Magnificat. Shaw writes very effectively and idiomatically for chorus and instruments, and here again was a work that we wished had been longer.
Vivaldi’s Gloria was thrilling! Especially effective were the Et in terra pax hominibus and the jazzy Domine Fili unigenite with its powerful dotted rhythms. The soloists were heard to excellent effect – especially sopranos Labelle and Rottsolk in Laudamus te and counter tenor Sheehan in Domine Deus. Overall, this was a”Wow!” performance.
We observed a very satisfying and humming post-concert euphoria during the Champagne reception hosted by Alaska Airlines on the upper terrace. There were a lot of happy campers.