The Norman Scribner Choir continued the Terrace Theater's ensemble recital series Saturday evening with a handsome selection of works from the German choral tradition. Ranging from the 17th-century composer, Heinrich Schu tz, to Brahms and Hindemith, the program reflected the emerging role of the Terrace as an antidote to the "top-40" or "star system" approach to classical music by presenting polished performances of refreshing repertoire.
Norman Scribner is a familiar figure on the local music scene, both as a keyboard performer and as conductor of the Choral Arts Society. This smaller, 26-voice choir made its debut in Bernstein's "Mass" at the Kennedy Center's opening in 1971. There have been personnel changes since then, but it has continued as a group of professional singers, and therein lies both its strength and weakness.
In Saturday's performance the ensemble proved exceptionally responsive in following Scribner's able direction, handling the various styles with notable intelligence, accuracy of pitch, crispness of diction and dynamic precision. Most of the time Scribner got the highly refined sound quality he sought, though the blend in the male voices needed better balancing. Despite all these virtues, however, the ensemble seemed a bit lifeless. Bach's motet, "Jesu, Meine Freude," in particular, suffered from the lack of an animating pulse to drive the music forward.
The recital included a series of Brahms songs for a vocal quartet made up of soprano Diane Soulier, contralto Beverly Benso, tenor Stanley Cornett and bass Richard Dirksen. After a rather stiff beginning, the four achieved an impressive emotional climax in the sweeping lines of "Sehnsucht." Cornett contributed several expressive solos during the evening, including an especially intense opening to Hindemith's "Wahre Liebe."