Moyse celebrated with joyful Bach

 Rutland Herald (VT)

October 4, 2011 
Section: FEATURES17 

Music Review: Moyse celebrated with joyful Bach 


MARLBORO – New York bassist Jack Kulowitsch said, “She’s here. I’m getting nervous already.” She was Blanche Honegger Moyse. Kulowitsch and some 70 musicians – and an enthusiastic audience – had gathered at Marlboro College’s Persons Auditorium Sunday afternoon to honor the founder of the New England Bach Festival, as well as co-founder of Marlboro Music Festival, the Bratlleboro Music Center and the Marlboro College music department. Moyse died at her West Brattleboro home in February at the age of 101.

Veteran members of Moyse‘s Bach Festival (1969-2004), including world renowned vocal soloists, herBlanche Moyse Chorale and NEBF Orchestra, returned to the festival’s Marlboro home and perform three of Bach’s cantatas, Nos. 42, 142 and 30. Moyse‘s spirit, indeed, insinuated itself on the performance and what emanated from the stage was pure joy.

Moyse‘s approach to Bach was unique in its combination of academic understanding of historical performance practices with a romantic expressiveness learned from her European training. That resulted in acclaimed performances that delivered Bach’s spiritual depth. Despite the lack of Moyse‘s physical presence – and a little too much exuberance here, a few uncontrolled details there – Sunday’s concert could have been directed by her. After all, these musicians were trained by Moyse over several decades.

 Moyse‘s presence wasn’t clear at first, but with the first aria in the opening Cantata No. 42, it felt like her celebrated Bach Festivals. Mezzo-soprano Mary Westbrook Geha sang “Wo Zwei und Drei versammlet (Where two or three are gathered)” with such delicacy and tenderness that it was difficult to keep tears at bay.

Another magic moment before intermission was the lyrical and deeply touching duet between soprano Hyunah Yu and violinist Mitsuru Tsubota, “Bereite dir (Prepare, Jesus),” from Cantata No. 147. That was followed by the Chorale in a richly delivered, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

Still, the Blanche Moyse experience was summed up with the large scale Cantata No. 30, “Freue dich, erloeste Schar (Rejoice, redeemed flock),” which was recorded commercially at the first festival in 1969. The Chorale began the cantata and ended it with a brilliant and joyful performance of the massive title chorus.

Baritone Sanford Sylvan lent his overt expressiveness to one aria, while Yu returned for a powerful and deeply felt performance of another. Tenor Stephen Paul Spears brought his rich lyricism to a moving recitative. But it was Westbrook-Geha in a quietly lyrical duet with flutist Carol Wincenc, “Kommit, ihrangefochtnen Sünder (Come, you tempted singers),” that truly evoked the sprit of Moyse.

Mezzo-soprano Mary Nessinger lent her rich lyricism to two arias, while baritone Randal Scarlat delivered others with stentorian presence. Wetbrook-Geha conducted most of the concert, while Zon Eastes, who organized the performance, assisted.

Moyse‘s daughter, Dominique Moyse Steinberg, in thanking everyone, suggested that this was such a success they return next year for another. What a great idea – then Moyse‘s spirit would continue its already incredible run.
Copyright, 2011, Rutland Herald

(My mother conducted her last concert, in New York City, at young and tender age of 95)


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