Critic’s Choice

March 18, 2015 at 6:37 pm

By David Wright

David Hoose

Catching their breath after singing continuously a capella for over an hour in Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil last month, Cantata Singers share the limelight with soloists and orchestra Friday night in a program that evokes the high noon of Viennese Classicism.

“More than any other religious work for voices,” wrote the church-music scholar Karl Fellerer, “Mozart’s great C minor Mass sums up the entire eighteenth century.”  That’s a tall order, but when one hears the echoes of Bach, Handel, and even Italian opera—along with Mozart’s own unmistakable voice–in this remarkable, unfinished work, one can see what he meant.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 86 reveals the mature master composing for a Paris audience that would appreciate his most advanced innovations.  Who else would have dared to re-import the minuet to the country that invented it, while transforming the simple dance into a full-blown sonata form?

A generation later, Beethoven was capping his career (and the Classical era) with visionary works such as the Ninth Symphony and the late string quartets, and also shorter compositions where he put aside the old forms and let his imagination run free.  Among the latter, the touching Elegiac Song for chorus and string quartet stands out for the variety of emotions that surge through its brief span.

This is a diverse group of masterpieces, but if there is a thread through it all that gives new insight into this golden age of music, one can expect conductor David Hoose and his alert singers to find it.

The program will be performed 8 p.m. Friday at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.  cantatasingers.org; 617-868-5885.

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