Cantate Singers and Eclipse Chamber Orchestra Give C.P.E. Bach's 'Magnificat' Its Due

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Transitional works often get little respect, but C.P.E. Bach's "Magnificat" is one that deserves to be much better known. Always overshadowed by the "Magnificat" by Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel's father, the younger composer's setting is more homophonic, more dramatic and filled with clever touches that propel it out of the baroque period -- although not quite into the classical era.

On Sunday at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, Gis┬┐le Becker led the Cantate Chamber Singers and Eclipse Chamber Orchestra in a performance that showcased the strong opening "Magnificat" and triumphal "Gloria patri," while also expressing considerable emotion. Soprano Mary Ellen Callahan sang with clear, lovely tones in "Quia respexit," and baritone Bobb Robinson's "Fecit potentiam" was highly effective. Tenor Robert Baker was at his best in "Deposuit potentes," a duet with mezzo-soprano Barbara Hollinshead, and Hollinshead also brought real involvement to "Suscepit Israel." The orchestra played with verve, and the chorus handled the final fugue and extended "Amen" with aplomb.

Earlier in the concert, Eclipse Chamber Orchestra Music Director Sylvia Alimena led works that started in the baroque and soon moved onward. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 featured fine high-trumpet playing by Andrew Wilson, although the church's acoustics did not always let him be heard clearly. Handel's Organ Concerto, Op. 4, No. 2, was very well played by soloist William Neil, who took care not to overshadow his accompaniment. And C.P.E. Bach's Sinfonia, Op. 6, No. 2, featured interesting pizzicati and horn parts -- it seemed to strive to become a Haydnesque symphony, and almost succeeded.

-- Mark J. Estren

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