Thu, May 11, 2000

Riding the Range: Spring concert of Coro Allegro
Web Review

Julian Wachner’s recent setting of e. e. cumming’s “sometimes I feel alive” was an exhilarating contrast, the first movement an urgent moto perpetuo, zooming and careening like a roller-coaster; and the next two movements also offering spontaneous and sensitive renderings.

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RIDING THE RANGE: Spring concert of Coro Allegro
Liane Curtis
Published Thursday, May 11, 2000
Coro Allegro holds its spring concert, at the Church of the Covenant, Boston, May 7.


The first truly hot day of the year offered a truly hot concert by Coro Allegro, Boston’s chorus for the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual community. Coro Allegro again demonstrated their devotion to innovative programming and astounding musicianship. Beginning with Leonard Bernstein’s energetic “Warm-up,” Coro surprised us by beginning the concert from the back of the church (a bit of staging that I haven’t seen them indulge in before), with a deft rhythmic pattern of clapping, that served as the underpinning for the vivacious layers of singing.

The set of three pieces by William Billings (1746-1800) so impressed me with their range of musical expression that I found myself wondering, is this composer the American version of G. F. Handel? Now that comparison has a lot of problems, as the self-trained Billings had a very different musical life from that of Handel, the cosmopolitan and supremely professional European. But what I mean is this: a work like “Be Glad Then America” encapsulates such a broad and dramatic range of feeling, with its sectional construction and juxtaposition of moods, that it captures the imagination of the singers (and Billings wrote for amateurs) as well as audiences in a way that fuses loyalty and identity. The sectional structure and the colorful writing speak with a directness that draw us in, together. And the larger motion from the solemn, dark and shadowy (the chords of the opening “Mourn”) to the jubilantly celebratory struck me as particularly Handelian, as did the references to old testament themes and the brilliant illustrative touches, such as the word “shout” painted with overlapping choral outbursts. “David’s Lamentation” (on the loss of his son Absalom) is one of Billing’s best-known works, and justly so. The theme has drawn composers since the early sixteenth century and this moving text, in which David addresses God directly, draws a powerful chordal declaration from Billings, and Coro Allegro’s sound was bold in their evocation. The sheer volume that Coro achieved here was something I hadn’t heard in their singing before, and it was quite striking and awe-inspiring, leaving a bold and breathless mark.

An old and fun theme

“Modern Music” (another Billings piece) meant, in that time, a work newly composed for a recreational, amateur singing event. Music about musicians performing music is an old theme and always a fun one (think too of plays about actors, or paintings of artists—the self-referential in art). Coro communicated the sprightly text with much energy. It was yet another epiphany to hear Elliot Carter’s (b. 1908) emphatic and readily engaging setting of the Emily Dickinson poem “Musicians Wrestle Everywhere.”

This work of 1945 quite different from the complex and even daunting later works that Carter is best known for. The simplicity of the warm thirds of the ending offered a gentle and hopeful warmth. Part of Coro Allegro’s mission is to “enhance the choral tradition through works by contemporary composers.” To this end they featured recent music by two local composers. Patricia Van Ness draws upon centuries of sacred polyphony and chant as the starting point for her modern spiritual creation of 1994, “Cor mei Cordis” (Heart of my heart). She has written her own poetry about God’s love and devotion for us, and had this poetry (which, like Van Ness’ music, resonates with the rich expressiveness of Hildegard of Bingen) translated into Latin. The work evokes so much that is ancient and traditional, yet is transformed and meditatively transforming; God, not as “father,” but rather as a caring life-force that transcends masculine or feminine.” Julian Wachner’s recent setting of e. e. cumming’s “sometimes I feel alive” was an exhilarating contrast, the first movement an urgent moto perpetuo, zooming and careening like a roller-coaster; and the next two movements also offering spontaneous and sensitive renderings.

The Tin-Pan Alley segment featured the music of Gershwin and Irving Berlin, with “Summertime” as the highlight, with Nancy Taylor as the sultry and sizzlin’ soloist. This rhythmic setting was charged by the close harmonies and the vigor of Taylor’s driving scat. The upbeat “Blue Skies” gave us more scatting, with inventive solos by Willis Emmons and Nancy McGhee. This year marks the centenary of Aaron Copland’s birth, and since he is a composer as quintessentially American as Billings, he was the perfect composer to end the concert with. “The Promise of Living,” from the opera “The Tender Land,” gave us spacious sonorities, shimmering and shining in drawing a scene of vast open plains, even evocative of Billings with the fresh quality of some of the open chords. Coro Allegro provided surety and compelling artistic conviction in this range of styles and emotions. We wish them well as they represent Boston’s GLB community in the GALA Choruses Festival in San Jose, California, this July!

See the Coro Allegro Website or call 617-499-4868 for information about upcoming Coro Allegro events. These include a free concert June 7, 6:30 at Titus Sparrow Park in the South End, and the Pride Interfaith Service, at Old South Church, June 10.

Mon, April 24, 2000

Powerful, eloquent St. Matthew Passion
The Boston Globe

Back Bay Chorale/Emmanuel Music review by Ellen Pfeifer

Tue, April 18, 2000

Tribute repays Antoniou’s generosity
The Boston Globe

Wachner ‘War Songs’ review by Richard Dyer

Fri, April 14, 2000

Review takes music seriously
The Boston Globe

(Passion preview)

A new record magazine has appeared on the stands: The International Record Review, published in England, but addressed, as the title implies, to the international English-speaking audience.

The list of contributors is impressive and includes many authoritative names familiar from The Gramophone and even its long- lamented American counterpart High Fidelity. In fact the new magazine looks a lot like an issue of The Gramophone from 20 years ago and clearly represents disaffection with the direction that venerable magazine has taken in the last two years.

Thu, April 13, 2000

Providence singers soar in ‘St. John Passion’
The Providence Journal

Providence Singers review by Channing Gray

Mon, April 10, 2000

Orchestra delivers lovable, witty ‘Façade’
The Boston Herald

Pro Arte Orchestra review by T.J. Medrek

Thu, March 30, 2000

“Music of Bach unlike anything else”
The Providence Journal

Interview with Julian by Channing Gray

Wed, March 29, 2000

BBE does a lovely job on Bach Motets
The Boston Globe

Boston Bach Ensemble reviewed by Michael Manning

Sun, March 26, 2000

Conductor with presence, and a future
The Boston Globe

Profile of Julian by David Wildman

Mon, March 13, 2000

Guest conductor leads orchestra through first concert of the semester
The Brown Daily Herald

Brown University chorus review by David Rivello

Sun, December 26, 1999

Best of 1999 listing
The Boston Globe

Julian Wachner named “Most admired conductor.”

article by Richard Dyer

Thu, November 11, 1999

MUSIC REVIEW; The Songs Must Go On, A Recitalist Determines
The New York Times

It was in the boldest proclamations—Handel’s ‘‘Honor and Arms,’’ from ‘‘Samson,’’ and Julian Wachner’s ‘‘War Songs,’’ an alternately atmospheric and hectoring setting of texts by Robert Frost, Wilfred Owen and Walt Whitman—that Mr. Salters seemed to have more to offer than he was able to project on this occasion. Still, the Handel, particularly, showed a fine sense for the dramatic utterance.

Tue, October 12, 1999

Bach Ensemble brings breath of fresh air
The Boston Globe

Combine a Lutheran world-view with a learned but opulent, near- operatic compositional manner and you get the wonderful musical ouputs, created one century apart, of Heinrich Schuetz (1585-1672) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

Performing same is, of course, one of the things that Boston has been famously good at, thanks to such local heroes as Craig Smith, John Harbison, David Hoose. So who, you ask, were these upstart newcomers, not a one of them (we did check) having any association whatever with Emmanuel Music, the unofficial yet established center of such things?

In fact, the Boston Bach Ensemble is the creature (in existence since 1995) of Julian Wachner…

Tue, June 8, 1999

A commanding ‘German Requiem’
The Boston Globe

THE BACK BAY CHORALE AND PRO ARTE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA Julian Wachner, conductor With guest conductor Beverly Taylor, soprano Andrea Matthews, and baritone David Murray At: Sanders Theatre, Harvard University, Cambridge, Sunday CAMBRIDGE—Sunday night’s concert served not only as a 25th anniversary celebration of the Back Bay Chorale, but a tribute to Larry Hill (1936-1989), conductor, clergyman, and social activist, who founded it and the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra. His presence is still felt among us, many will attest, as well as deeply missed.

Mon, November 23, 1998

Wachner finds freshness in Bach oratorio
The Boston Globe

One has become accustomed, at about this time of year, to being accosted by the inescapable, ceaseless medley of tinkly sugar plums, thrumming drummer boys, and triplet kings, all-pervasively proclaiming life’s most concentrated commercial melee—oh, and the most sacred stretch of the calendar for most of the Western world. Seizing on that last thought, throughly cleansing the palate once more before the assault of saccharin, Boston University’s Marsh Chapel presented J. S. Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” Friday night…

Wed, November 18, 1998

Rachmaninoff’s religion soars…
The Boston Globe

Back Bay Chorale review by Richard Buell

Wed, May 13, 1998

Giving full measure to the majesty of ‘Elijah’
The Boston Globe

‘Elijah’ review by Susan Larson

Tue, May 12, 1998

“...pairing results in stirring ‘Elijah’”
The Providence Journal

‘Elijah’ review by Channing Gray

Wed, April 29, 1998

Early-music pearls; Wachnerville
The Boston Globe

Composition review by Richard Buell

Tue, February 24, 1998

New music that’s both lush and spare
The Boston Globe

article by Susan Larson, Back Bay Chorale New Music Festival

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