Friday, April 22, 2011

University of Nebraska-Lincoln performers put on Bach's Mass in B minor

On Sunday, the University Singers, under the direction of Peter Ecklund, collaborated with the Chiara String Quartet and other performers from the UNL School of Music to perform J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor. Kimball Recital Hall held a large audience, all moved by the powerful piece.
The UNL School of Music provided programs with extensive notes that explained the text and musical settings of each movement. Before the concert began, audience members could read a short history of the piece and why Bach, a German Lutheran, would write a Mass. Not only is the work a spiritual encounter of Catholic and Lutheran devotions, but it is also “a synthesis of every stylistic and technical contribution [Bach] made to music.” This work is sometimes called “the greatest work of art of all time,” and as the culmination of Bach’s career, it is fitting that it is also the last work that he completed in his lifetime.

A musical setting of the Mass always covers the same texts called the Ordinary of the Mass in the following order: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei (Lord have mercy, Glory to God in the Highest, I Believe, Holy, and Lamb of God). Bach takes each prayer and divides it into different movements to emphasize each line and sentiment in the prayer.

A number of movements call for soloists: Talea Block and Michala Martin were the soloists for Christe Eleison, a movement for unison violins, continuo, and two solo sopranos. In the Gloria, the text beginning Laudamus te (We praise you) was performed by Kellyn Wooten, mezzo-soprano, and Rebecca Fischer, violin, in a virtuosic style. Later in the Gloria, Allison Harvey, soprano, and Zach Vreeman, tenor, sang a duet with the accompaniment of Stephanie DeMaura on the flute. After a movement with chorus, Katie Mozack Bramsen sang an aria accompanied by William McMullen on the oboe, followed by an aria sung by John Stewart with Joshua Johnson, horn. The Gloria closed with another triumphant fanfare with full chorus. In later movements, Karina Brazas, Cami Phigreen, Andrew Last, Patrick O’Halloran, and Hannah Kurth sang beautiful solos.

The UNL performers did a wonderful job bringing this piece to life with its solos, duets, and choruses with examples of fugues, colossal Baroque style, moments with Renaissance style music, ritornellos, and all the stylistic techniques of which Bach was the master. Many audience members were brought to tears by the beauty of the music.

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