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Say Hallelujah

New York
St. Ignatius Loyola
05/25/2011 -  
Ludwig van Beethoven: Christus am Ölberge, Op. 85
George Frideric Handel: Organ Concerto No. 3 in G Minor, HWV 291, Op. 4/3 – Foundling Hospital Anthem

Rachel Rosales (Soprano), Paul Appleby (Tenor), Charles Perry Sprawls (Bass-Baritone)
Nancianne Parrella (Organ), Jorge Avila (Violin), Arthur Fiacco (Cello), Choir and Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola, Kent Tritle (Conductor)

K. Tritle (© Jennifer Taylor)

The breadth of experience and responsibilities of Kent Tritle is extraordinary. He is in charge of musical activities at the acoustically and visually splendid Church of St. Ignatius Loyala. He leads the New York Oratorical Society and Musica Sacra and is Director of Choral Activities at the Manhattan School of Music. He is the official organist for both the New York Philharmonic and the American Symphony Orchestra. He is on the graduate faculty at Julliard and hosts his own radio program, The Choral Mix. Mr. Tritle is clearly an expert in time management!

He’s also a creative programmer, finding a thematic link between Beethoven and his favorite composer, Handel – the celebratory choruses that end each of the choral works on this program. One is a staple of the choir repertoire and the other rather unknown and, on the basis of this performance, wrongly neglected. For his Anthem, Handel borrowed from himself; the concluding section is the “Halleluja chorus” from the Messiah. The Anthem was written for a charity concert in aid of the Foundling Hospital in London. Handel was a dedicated supporter; indeed, the yearly performances there of his Messiah, were an important source of income for the charity. On this occasion, as performed by the chorus under the baton of Maestro Tritle, with crisp textures and rhythmic verve, this familiar piece sounded utterly fresh.

Saint Ignatius Loyola (© Laurie Lebrecht)

The finale of Christus am Ölberge, Beethoven’s only oratorio and the first of his three choral works, was a hallelujah chorus in spirit but not in name. The text, by Franz Huber, chronicles the fear and foreboding of Jesus in the face of the realization of his impending suffering, and his ultimate acceptance of and transcendence over that suffering. Joseph Kerman, citing the work of musicologist and psychoanalyst Alan Tyson, has pointed to Beethoven’s letters, raw with anguish over his progressive deafness, and found a thematic similarity with Christ’s struggles. Whatever his motivation and associations, it’s unarguable that Beethoven produced a magnificent work which fully deserves to be heard. Musically, his debt to Mozart is apparent in the tenor’s vocal line and also in the instrumentation. I heard echoes of Die Zauberflöte and even Die Entführung aus dem Serail. But this is, above all, a highly dramatic work in subject matter and in scoring, particularly in the dueling choruses of apostles and soldiers. The chorus’s powerful “Verdammung ist ihr Loos” was chilling. And the orchestra, in all of its moods and styles was simply splendid.

Paul Appleby, who sang the role of Jesus, is clearly a Tamino in waiting. With his sweet, ardent voice, even from top to bottom, he would do ample justice to the vocal challenges of “Dies Bildnis.” He would also bring to Tamino an ability to convey the metaphysical dimension of his dark night of the soul – the anguished questioning in the finale to act one. Appleby, a participant in the Met’s Lindemann Young Artists Program, is the 2011 winner of the George London Foundation Award. The soprano, Rachel Rosales, sang with power and warmth. Her middle voice is particularly rich, but the coloratura requirements at times seemed to be beyond her abilities. Bass-baritone Charles Perry Sprawls made for a stentorian Peter. In the organ concerto which began the evening Nancianne Parrella, Jorge Ávila, and Arthur Fiacco, all in the organ loft, gave a moving, richly detailed and committed performance.

The Website of Kent Tritle
Sacred Music in a Sacred Space

Arlene Judith Klotzko



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