MONTPELIER – The Capital City enjoyed its best-attended concert in memory Saturday, standing room only at St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church. An estimated 700 to 800 people crammed into the city’s largest church to hear Capital City Concerts present music of Johann Sebastian Bach. (Sunday’s repeat at St. Paul’s Cathedral was SRO also, but that’s a much smaller church.)
Richard Riley led a 34-voice community chorus, a 21-piece professional orchestra and four topnotch vocal soloists in a brilliant performance of Bach’s Magnificat, BWV 243. The orchestra went it alone in an equally brilliant Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, BWV 1047. Both won well-deserved enthusiastic standing ovations.
Still, the most sublime moments came before the Brandenburg and Magnificat. Setting the tone for the entire program was an irresistibly charming performance by soprano Hyunah Yu and mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne of the jaunty duet, “Wir eilen mit schwachen (We hurry with weak yet eager steps).” Yu and Boulianne brilliantly blended and contrasted with spirit, balanced by the expert continuo of cellist Emily Taubl and harpsichordist Lynette Combs. It was exquisite.
Boulianne pleaded for mercy, joined by Lucy Chapman’s solo violin, in “Ebarme dich” from the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244. Subtly employing a broad refined palette of colors, and a clear connection with the dramatic text, Boulianne’s performance was at once exhilarating and heart wrenching.
Yu was joined by flutist Karen Kevra in the sublimely lyrical lullaby “Süsser trost, mein Jesus kömmt (Sweet consolation, my Jesus comes),” as the two intertwined their tender lines. Yu used her unique ruby-like voice with a touchingly nuanced expressiveness. It was heavenly.
The Magnificat, one of Bach’s few works written in Latin, is one of the composer’s most popular works, in part because the 12 short – brilliant – parts add up to only about 30 minutes. Riley’s chorus, though amateur, blended well, sounded rich and delivered a truly spirited performance.
Boulianne returned for a brilliant “Et exultavit spiritus meus,” and an intimate duet with tenor Joshua Collier, “Et misericordia.” Collier was especially effective in the brilliant “Deposuit potentes.”
Yu’s passion for Bach returned in the plaintive “Quia respexit.” Bass David Tinerva had a natural lyricism and real warmth in “Quia fecit mihi magna.” The solo work was largely excellent throughout.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, known for its brilliant trumpet, enjoyed excellent soloists, including Sycil Mathai on trumpet, Kevra on flute, oboist Randall Wolfgang, and Chapman on violin. The opening Allegro got off a bit too fast to breathe, or for its nuances to be enjoyed, but the intimate Andante was pure pleasure. And the final Allegro assai was brilliant and exciting.
Apparently well-played Bach sells.