The Oahu Choral Society, with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, is presenting Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor tomorrow night only, May 16, 2014 at 7:30 pm at Blaisdell Concert Hall. Under the direction of Esther Yoo, soloists include Youngmi Kim, Georgine Stark, Jennifer Lane, Randall Umstead, and David Dong-Geun Kim. Guess who has been contracted to play the organ continuo part?
The B-minor Mass has been called “The greatest work of music of all ages and of all peoples,” according to Hans-Georg Nägeli. After last night’s rehearsal, I would agree wholeheartedly. Even though the interpretation is different from the last performance I did three years ago with Carl Crosier at the helm, I have to agree that this is great music, and everyone should make an effort to hear it. Composer Michael Torke was quoted as saying “Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass?”
However I must admit I felt a twinge of sadness last night, while we were rehearsing the “Gratias agimus tibi” section of the Gloria. The movement is a giant double fugue with the subject sung first by the basses, followed immediately by the tenors, and builds and builds with a constant compounding of voices and instruments, increasing texture and dynamics. In my mind, the highpoint of the piece happens at the entrance of the timpani on the last page. At that point I looked over across the stage, half expecting to see Steve Dinion playing. Of course, someone else was playing, not that he wasn’t doing a good job, but I still felt sad anyway to realize that Steve is no longer with us.
Here’s a performance of this movement from the Bachfest 2000 at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany (Bach’s church). The timpani comes in about 1:59 after the opening.
P.S. Wish me luck getting out of the concert hall after the concert! My plane for Seattle to attend Peter Hallock’s memorial service leaves at 11:14 pm that night! Let me see, the concert is supposed to start at 7:30 pm. The performance takes a little over two hours to complete, with a 20-minute intermission. We plan to park on the street so as not to get caught up in the crush of cars out of Blaisdell parking lot; according to Google Maps, it’s 6.6 miles to Honolulu International Airport, or 13 minutes without traffic.
It will be a nail-biter all the way!
(Note to Esther Yoo: I give you permission to drink coffee before the performance!)