Washington Bach Consort: Divine music-making at National Presbyterian Church


J. Reilly Lewis, shown in December, is the conductor of the Washington Bach Consort. (Evy Mages/For The Washington Post)

Bach’s music doesn’t give singers and wind players time to breathe. But you couldn’t tell that Sunday, when the Washington Bach Consort brought an exciting afternoon of his works to the National Presbyterian Church.

Conducted by director J. Reilly Lewis, the program’s music ranged from Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, his BWV 1049 and his “Missa Brevis,” BWV 235, to the Prelude and Fugue, BWV 543 (played beautifully by Lewis), and the Ascension Oratorio, BWV 11. From start to finish, it was a rewarding event for the consort’s audience — always a full house.

Throughout the program, the consort met Bach’s requirements with technical expertise and depth — especially when it performed the Ascension Oratorio, which marks the Christian feast day celebration of Christ’s ascent into heaven. The choral sections were incisive, with all eyes on Lewis. Countertenor Charles Humphries offered a poignant account of “Ach, bleibe doch,” an aria Bach borrowed from the “Agnes Dei” of his B Minor Mass (in turn, derived from a lost wedding cantata).

All the vocal and instrumental soloists, the chorus and the orchestra were superb and in perfect accord — everyone propelled to the end by Bach’s immutable rhythmic pulse.

Porter is a freelance writer.

J. Reilly Lewis directs as tjeu perform Christmas carols at the National Cathedral. (Evy Mages/For The Washington Post)

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