Bach Consort's Perfect Setting

Monday, September 26, 2005

There's nothing more inspiring than a match made in musical heaven, as evidenced when arguably the finest concert hall in the region played host Friday night, for the first time, to the Washington Bach Consort. The Music Center at Strathmore's acoustical mix of airiness and immediacy, of pinpoint clarity and tonal warmth, was well suited to conductor J. Reilly Lewis's approach to baroque choral tradition, specifically Bach's majestic B Minor Mass.

What makes Lewis's Bach so satisfying is its naturalness -- the gentle unfolding of reverential moments, the litheness and lilting spirit of the dance when the music turns sprightly, the relaxed but infectious joy that radiates through the climactic choruses. At Friday's performance, he brought forth ravishingly blended sounds from his 30-member chorus and period-instrument orchestra. The intimate glow of Strathmore ensured that the quietest instrumental solos registered effectively and that the chamber clarity of the choral singing came through, even while the richness and unity of their sound was allowed to blossom.

The team of vocal soloists -- sopranos Suzie LeBlanc and Rosa Lamoreaux, countertenor Patrick Van Goethem, tenor Alan Bennett and bass Sanford Sylvan -- was near perfection, with special praise due to the radiant counterpoint spun by the two pure-toned sopranos, and the urgent eloquence Sylvan brought to the bass arias.

-- Joe Banno

© 2005 The Washington Post Company