Weekend in review: Rachmaninoff's 'All Night Vigil' from Baltimore Choral Arts Society
The last time the ensemble performed the score was in 2003, during the cool citywide Vivat! St. Petersburg festival initiated by Yuri Temirkanov (remember Vivat? remember Yuri Temirkanov?).
On that occasion, Choral Society music director Tom Hall talked all the way through it, providing a running commentary on nearly every one of the 15 movements in the piece. I never did understand his thinking then.
This time, for a concert Saturday night at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium, Hall engaged actors Megan Anderson and Kyle Prue from Everyman Theatre to do readings chosen by Naomi Greenberg-Slovin. The readings were spaced out at intervals in the concert, allowing a few movements of music to be sung at a time.
All things considered, it represented
Saturday's dramatic readings included excerpts from Shakespeare, Chekhov and Gibran. Some of the introductory words setting up the readings seemed to take longer than the actual readings themselves, but the actors were pros, the pacing was good, the staging effective. If the words didn't add immeasurably to my enjoyment of the music, hey, maybe it's just me.
No question about the singing, though. That was really quite impressive. There's no place to hide in a cappella music, of course, especially in a piece as richly textured as the "All-Night Vigil." Hall's choristers articulated with admirable clarity, nuance and smoothness of blend (I'm not exactly fluent in Church Slavonic, the language of the texts, but the pronunciation sounded persuasive to me). Intonation was almost always spot-on; dynamic contrasts were effectively achieved.
Hall rounded up enough basses to move successfully into the subterranean realm Rachmaninoff called for in the fifth movement. At the other extreme, the sopranos made a particularly beautiful sound. Here and there, individual voices popped out where they shouldn't have, but the overall cohesiveness of the singing, not to mention Hall's sensitive shaping of the score, yielded consistent satisfaction. Tenor soloist Jim Kuang-Cheng Li produced a generally warm, sturdy tone.
SUN STAFF PHOTO (by Monica Lopossay)