How can I possibly describe a concert that was so filled with musicality, with spirituality, with beauty, with so much JOY?! The Bach Collegium Japan’s performance of the Mass in B-Minor was utter perfection in so many ways. The choir was pure heaven, with just four per part, and incredibly well-blended. Every section of the orchestra was equally beautiful, perfectly blended with fantastic ensemble with the voices. I noticed that there was one counter-tenor who sung the entire concert from memory.
The concert began with a short announcement by Christopher Cock, the director of the Bach Institute, that our hearts and prayers were with the Japanese people in the wake of their devastating earthquake and tsunami. Then everyone stood for a long moment of silence, which was incredible in itself. Imagine over a thousand people in the building and no one dared make a sound—it was the beginning of a musical experience which kept everyone absolutely spellbound.
We had fantastic seats, in the center and in the very front row. We could not have been in a more ideal location. There were so many highlights, that I cannot begin to name all of them.
Maestro Suzuki has such a wonderful sense of pacing. This mammoth work just flowed from one movement or section to another seamlessly, yet with the appropriate pauses after brilliant choruses or slow endings. Carl made many notes in his miniature score. Even the movement of the soloists to and from the choir for their arias was carefully executed. In the major duets (Laudamus te—violin, soprano II; Domine Deus—flutes I/II, soprano I, tenor; Qui sedes—oboe d’amore, alto; Quoniam tu solus Sanctus—horn, bass) the concertato instrument(s) and the soloist(s) stood, which really focused on their dual importance. Although there is a huge variety of orchestration in this work, balances were nearly perfect. At several points either the chorus or soloist is accompanied only by continuo (bass line instruments plus organ and harpsichord). Suzuki varied this often omitting one or both of the bassoons, the string bass and even the harpsichord. At the triumphant “Dona Nobis Pacem” Suzuki gave the final cutoff, and there was an exquisite moment of silence before the audience leaped to their feet for a long, sustained standing ovation. Without a doubt, the biggest applause was for the choir, for a heroic performance well done.
This truly was a night we will long remember.