Capital City Concerts is bringing out the vocal star power for its performances of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat and other works next weekend. Returning to the series are soprano Hyunah Yu, a Marlboro regular who began her career at Vermont’s New England Festival, and mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne, who took master classes with Dalton Baldwin in Montpelier as a teen and now sings at the Metropolitan Opera.
The soloists, chorus and orchestra will be conducted by Richard Riley, artistic director of the Burlington Choral Society and music director of the Montpelier Unitarian Church.
“It’ll be a thrill for me,” Riley said recently by phone.
“I’m going to be working with a ton of musicians that I’ve never met. You show up at the rehearsal and have every tentacle that is possible out there to feel what they’re bringing, and you try to convey what you’re bringing to the music, and the thinking that needs to happen in a remarkably short amount of time,” he said. “It’s a very exciting experience — to put it mildly.”
Capital City Concerts will present the Magnificat, plus solo arias and the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Montpelier, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Burlington.
Joining Yu and Boulianne will be Brandon tenor Joshua Collier, a star of Opera Company of Middlebury productions, and baritone David Tinervia, finalist at the 2016 New England Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. With a five-part choir and an orchestra of strings, trumpets, flutes, oboes, timpani, organ and harpsichord, the musical forces will feature more than 60 professional musicians from Vermont and elsewhere.
The Magnificat, BWV 243, which premiered on Christmas day 1723, is a setting of the Biblical canticle, scored for two sopranos, alto, tenor and bass, chorus and orchestra including trumpets and timpani. It is the first major liturgical work on a Latin text by Bach.
“It is special to an extraordinary number of people,” Riley said. “If you go onto YouTube and look at the recordings of the Magnificat there are more than 10 of the entire piece — and I calculated the average number of listeners for each of those 10 recordings, and it comes to 276,000 for each.
“So does the Magnificat have any language that works in the 21st century? I think it does,” he said. “It boggles the mind.”
Blanche Moyse, founder and conductor of the New England Bach Festival (1969-2004), described the Magnificat as a “brilliant gem,” with all its facets of short arias and choruses.
“It’s very organic,” Riley said. “It ends up being no more than a half hour or less, and yet there are such distinct, memorable individual movements, and such a distinct quality of it being organic as an entire piece.”
The vocal soloists will also be featured in the soprano aria “Süsser Trost, Mein Jesus Kömmt,” BWV 151, the Benedictus from the B minor Mass for tenor, and the alto aria “Erbarme dich” from the “Saint Matthew Passion,” BWV 244, among others.
“The arias will be interesting because they are all slow, except the final duet,” Riley said. “The world of introspection in Bach is not slow. It is profound and the tempo, the creation, where the pulse may be slow, the amount of music that may be conveyed is rich. It’s extraordinarily rich.”
The slower tempo will also satisfy voice lovers, as it will show off the soloists.
“The moments in the Magnificat are relatively short,” Riley said. “Some of the solos clock in at a minute and a half, but these arias will definitely give the soloists the opportunity to be heard and appreciated on that level.”
The Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047, will feature as soloists trumpeter Sycil Mathai, flutist Karen Kevra (Capital City Concerts founder and director), oboist Randall Wolfgang and violinist Lucy Chapman, and will be performed without a conductor.
“The gang that Karen has assembled are friends, and they’ve done the Brandenburg together,” Riley said. “They wanted it to be a beautiful manifestation of them as colleagues. They don’t want anybody imposing any way of looking, thinking and playing — and I think that’s an absolutely beautiful approach.”