Critic’s Choice

March 29, 2016 at 4:57 pm

By David Wright

Anton Webern

Anton Webern

Bach, Brahms, Webern—it might sound like an eat-your-spinach exercise in music history, but Friday’s program by the Cantata Singers with orchestra conducted by David Hoose will likely expose that formidable threesome for the old softies they really were. 

Webern’s Five Movements for String Orchestra, Op. 5, brings a Viennese swoop and sway to composing with twelve tones, and his “tone color melody” style even adds a spoonful of Schlag to his orchestral arrangement of the awesome six-voice Ricercar from Bach’s A Musical Offering. 

This mostly contemplative music puts one in the mood to hear two vocal masterpieces that have a common agenda: to answer thoughts of doubt or fear with words of comfort.  Bach’s Cantata 60, O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, is a dialogue between Fear and Hope, resolved by the vox Christi (voice of Christ) with the words “Selig sind die Toten” (Blessed are the dead)—the same text so touchingly set by Brahms in his Ein deutsches Requiem, which closes Friday’s program.  If you don’t feel enveloped in lovingkindness by the end of this concert, one wonders what it would take.

Cantata Singers perform works of Bach, Brahms, and Webern 8 p.m. Friday at NEC’s Jordan Hall.  cantatasingers.org; 617-868-5885.

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