Who: Ottawa Bach Choir, Lisette Canton, conductor, with Ensemble Caprice
Where: St. Matthew’s Church
Reviewed on: Saturday, November 30, 2013 – 8 PM

OTTAWA — For its season opener, the Ottawa Bach Choir presented an evening of music by four major Baroque composers and one minor one. The minor one, though, bore the name of Bach. That’s no small distinction and there’s no denying that he had a share if the family talent.

The first offering was by Georg Philipp Telemann, who was one of the composers to whom the authorities in Leipzig would offer the job that J. S. Bach eventually got. In fact, Bach was their reluctant third choice.

Telemann’s Motet Saget der ruft Tochter Zion is a nicely centred work with a mature and confident musical language, and conductor Lisette Canton led a vigorous and persuasive account of it.

Johann Friedrich Christophe Bach was Johann Sebastian’s ninth son. His Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme quotes briefly from his father’s cantata of the same name and indeed one can hear the older man’s musical idiom, slightly modern and slightly less genius-laden. It’s still a solid piece. Canton led the choir and members of Ensemble Caprice gave a rendition that brought out the very best in the score, even if the melisma in the first movement was a little unfocused, not sparkling quite as it should have.

Listeners who sometimes find the church music of J.S. Bach a bit dour and difficult generally like that of Dietrich Buxtehude. He was almost 60 years Bach’s senior and wrote in a less-evolved Baroque style which, for some listeners, is more approachable. Canto and company delivered a joyful account of his Alles, was ihr tut. This was the first opportunity the Ensemble Caprice members had to be heard apart from the choir. The second half of the program opened with a Magnificat by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, another pre-Bach composer. Being music written for Catholic France it is different in sound from the German Lutheran repertoire that made up the rest of the evening. As usual the performance was marvellous.

The concert concluded with a cantata by the man himself, J. S. Bach. Generally good solo work and a firm sense of direction made this a fine conclusion to a fine evening.

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