Who: Ottawa Bach Choir, Lisette Canton, conductor, Jennifer Loveless, organ
Where: St. Matthew’s Church
Reviewed on: Saturday, May 10, 2014 – 8 PM

OTTAWA — Lisette Canton and her Ottawa Bach Choir concluded their 12th season Saturday evening with an eclectic program that will form the backbone of their five-city European tour in June. There was only one work by Bach, but a feast of music from every century from the 16th through the 20th was presented. And a couple of modern folk song arrangements were thrown in as a kind of dessert.

The program’s centrepiece was the Bach Motet, Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225 a work that the choir will sing in Leipzich’s Thomaskirche, the very church where the great composer spent more than half of his career. Although the performance was good, conductor Lisette Canton will probably want to polish up the melisma, and even the intonation in one or two spots in the first movement. The melisma in the Alleluja was excellent

Also on the program were works by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrielli, the latter composer’s Missa Brevis in F being especially beautiful and, like virtually every item on the program, sung to best effect. Palestrina’s Ave Maria for Five Voices was another fine listening experience.

Heinrich Hassler’s Tibi laus, Tibi gloria ushered in a series of German works, two of them by Buxtehude. (The choir will also be performing in Lübeck, where Buxtehude spent most of his working life.) The first of them was a two-movement Missa Brevis, which has a sunny sound for Lutheran church music of the time.

The next was the Toccata in D minor, an organ piece played nicely by Jennifer Loveless who will be accompanying the choir on the tour – accompanying in both senses of the word.

The pearl of the first half of the program was the Deutsches Magnificat by Heinrich Schutz. Schutz was one of the greatest composers of the first decades of the 17th century, and certainly the greatest of the Germans. The Magnificat is a work of the greatest depth and beauty, and Canton and her choir rendered it just so.

Organist Loveless introduced the 19th-century segment with a sonata movement by Mendelssohn, then Canton led the choir in Calmes des nuits by Saint-Saëns.

A selection of works by living composers Rupert Lang, Eric Whitacre and Nicholas Piper followed and were followed in their turn by folk song arrangements by Diane Loomer and Moses Hogan, all of them lovely and even haunting.

By the way, the soloists were all drawn from the choir and were all terrific.

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