By Nancy Plum
A rare musical gem came to Princeton last week when McCarter Theatre presented an international touring choral/orchestral ensemble. The Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart is a foundation established in 1981 to research and perform the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and connect it to musical composition of today. Despite the focus on Bach, the organization has commissioned numerous works inspired by or rooted in the compositional style of the 18th-century master and has been recognized for its international collaboration. The Bachakademie houses the Gächinger Kantorei chorus and Bach-Collegium Stuttgart orchestra, and both of these ensembles came to McCarter Theatre Center’s Matthews Theater last Wednesday night to perform Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor. Conducted by Bachakademie Artistic Director Hans-Christoph Rademann, the concert presented a work which has challenged choral ensembles for more than 250 years.
Bach’s responsibilities as cantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig in the early 1700s required him to churn out service music at a seemingly unfathomable rate. In the last decade of his life, Bach began to expand a previously composed “Kyrie” and “Gloria” work into what became the Mass in B minor by adding a “Credo,” “Sanctus,” and “Agnus Dei” from music composed over a 25-year period. Bach completed the mass in 1749, but this work was not performed as a concert piece until the mid-1800s, more than a century after Bach’s death.
The Gächinger Kantorei and Bach-Collegium performed the Mass in B minor drawing the soloists from the chorus, as would have been done in Bach’s time, and assigning some of the extended coloratura choral passages to solo concertists. Under Rademann’s direction, the performance brought together a clean and precise chorus and orchestra with four historically-informed and technically accurate vocal soloists. more