When Johann Met Carl: Beautiful Music Together

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rarely will you find a program that pairs Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" with three of J.S. Bach's most popular cantatas. But on Tuesday evening, the Washington Bach Consort and the Cathedral Choral Society gave such riveting performances of the composers' works at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall that it was difficult to imagine any better combination.

Presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society, the Consort -- under music director J. Reilly Lewis -- and its expressive orchestra delivered buoyant, articulate performances of Bach's Choral Overture from Cantata BWV 110 and the Wedding Cantata, BWV 202. How special to hear soloist Elizabeth Futral display her radiantly sweet voice so effortlessly in the first verse of the Aria for Soprano, BWV 1127 -- discovered only a year ago. She and the other soloists, mezzo-soprano Rosemarie van der Hooft, tenor Robert Baker and bass-baritone Stephen Powell, helped the Consort fete Bach on his 321st with a pulsing and celebratory Birthday Cantata, BWV 214.

The Cathedral Choral Society's 230 energetic voices, with the Children's Chorus of Washington, followed Lewis's every command in an exhilarating and cinematic "Carmina Burana." The driving rhythms, alternately earthy and clangorous, held steady at impressive expanses of volumes and relented only for a few key solos.

Powell's richly dark voice traversed drama and humor as easily as it could navigate several octaves in the span of a few notes. Tenor Baker proved quite a comedian with his wanderings about the stage while Futral probed the work's emotional depths.

-- Grace Jean

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