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Orpheus and Bach Choir in Bach's Magnificat
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Orpheus and Bach Choir in Bach's Magnificat

- Classical and Cultural Connections

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
(Orpheus Website)
490 Riverside Drive, NY, NY 10027
Kent Tritle, Artistic Advisor

With Bach Choir of New York

At Carnegie Hall

Raechel Alexander, Manager, Public Affairs
Press: Cohn Dutcher Associates
Howli Ledbetter

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 3, 2005

(See Orpheus Historical Notes).

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936): Trittico Botticelliano (1927), La Primavera, L’Adorazione dei Magi (The Adoration of the Magi), La Nascita di Venere (The Birth of Venus)

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963): Suite from Tuttifäntchen (A Christmas Fairy Tale, 1922), Vorspiel, Lied, Intermezzo, Lied, Marsch, Musik zum Kaspertheater, Tanz der Holzpuppen, Lied, Melodram, Wiegenlied, SchluBlied

Johann Sebastian Bach ( 1685-1750): Magnificat, BWV 243 (1723-30), Six Choral Movements and Six Aria Movements for Rachel Rosales, Soprano, Katie Geissinger, Mezzo-soprano I, Ory Brown, Mezzo-soprano II, James Archie Worley, Tenor, and Matthew Boehler, Bass.

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra performs without a conductor, and, for each work, the musicians switch seats. Sometimes a violinist seems to be in the lead “cue” seat, and sometimes a cellist, or other musician. The Bach Choir of New York also performs without a conductor, and soloists slowly walk center-stage, from the rear choral section, in synchronized movement. The lack of conductors is fascinating and attests to the innate professionalism and cooperative collaboration of the musicians and choir.

Respighi’s Trittico Botticelliano includes chimes and bells. Faint horns and bassoon in the first movement, with three celli and one bass, created an almost balletic quality to this work. The second movement had hymnal effects and a plaintive bassoon, plus a repetitive and exotic marching theme, evocative of the marching cue of biblical gift bearers. Faint, disappearing strings were elegant. The third movement featured flittering flutes in rippling solos, plus a vibration of strings, then a silent pause, before soft violins and harp. Orpheus managed to bring out the magic in Respighi’s “triptych”.

For Hindemith’s Suite from Tuttifäntchen, Nick Danielson, also with NYC Ballet Orchestra, took lead, center seat. Nick has been a member of Orpheus since 1990 and Associate Concertmaster of NYC Ballet since 1992. His violin was made in NYC in 2000 by violinmaker, Stefan Bauni. Nick and his violin also appeared for quite some time on Broadway, in Fiddler. Strings and timpani were presented with well-timed rhythmic effects, and I was soon thinking of a willowy waltz, as the music swelled. Melancholy and blissful passages were enhanced with the oboe for a lilting lullaby.

While the first half of the program was engaging and esoteric, the second half was mesmerizing and mystical. The Bach Magnificat, with 12 movements, some for full chorus, some just for female singers, and just for male singers, and some for solos or solos with solo instruments, was tonight performed with dramatic depth and quintessential professionalism. With a cellist in the lead seat, the choral soloists would walk from the rear choral grouping to center-stage with poise and presence. Voices were clear and eloquent. Orpheus showed its virtuosity with striking solos or small instrumental ensembles playing with one singer at a time, or the full chamber orchestra performing intermittently with full chorus or soloist.

With exultant lyrics about the magnification of “the Lord”, the “humble and meek”, “forefathers”, and “world without end”, the Magnificat is a serious work, often performed around Christmas. According to Kent Tritle, Artistic Director of Bach Choir of New York, in Program Notes, “The Magnificat has these many movements that are particularly focused, each one like a jewel….In a way, you get a mini-tour of Bach’s palette just by hearing the Magnificat”.

Recently, Nicolas Danielson, Orpheus violinist, joined me at the showroom of Gregory Singer Fine Violins. Photos follow.

Nick Danielson

Nick Danielson and Gregory Singer

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at