Henry Engbrecht and Canzona have done it again. On Sunday evening, they had audience members jumping to their feet as the choir and orchestra played their final notes. The work: Bach's grandiose Mass in B Minor.
This great piece of music is not only wonderful to listen to, but is also extremely demanding to sing and/or play. One couldn't help but marvel at the stamina of the musicians and the consistent quality of their performance from start to finish.
Engbrecht conducted both Canzona and Musikbarock Ensemble.
The opening Kyrie eleison began with lilting phrasing from the tenors, showing immaculate diction that is Engbrecht's credo (no pun intended). The rich, creamy bass section never overpowered, just satisfied.
Soprano Sarah Kirsch and alto Kirsten Schellenberg struck a lovely balance in the Christe eleison, with solid continuo accompaniment by Paul Nagelberg on bass.
The Kyrie, full of tricky intervals, posed no problems for these experienced artists who swept through them masterfully while still sounding full and strong. The choir was joined by trumpet and timpani in the lively and very animated Gloria.
Concertmaster Mary Lawton and Schellenberg made it through the extensively long phrases of Laudamus Te without a thought to breathing. Schellenberg's voice continues to be a Manitoba treasure. Lawton's ornaments could have been more relaxed. They felt rushed.
The trumpets were splendid in Gratias agimus tibi, but would have been spine-tingling if they had been permitted to "give it" more and sing out in this acoustically ideal venue.
Flautist Laura MacDougall had us mesmerized by her sweet solo in Domine Deus. Soprano Marni Enns and tenor Jan van der Hooft were soloists and Enns's mature voice merged with van der Hooft, who has continued to develop by leaps and bounds over the past few years, displaying a nice vibrato. This was one of the highlights of the evening.
Oboist Caitlin Broms-Jacobs opened Qui sedes with a pristine introduction to mezzo-soprano Victoria Marshall, who was also the evening's Rising Star performer. This is a true mezzo voice, rich in timbre, plumbing all the colour she possibly could. Fine job.
Bassoon and a slightly shaky French horn opened Quoniam tu solus sanctus, after which bass Victor Engbrecht gave a rather blustery reading of the aria that certainly kept things moving.
Cum sancto spiritu was inspiringly energetic, everyone giving it their all. Not a single note in these speedy phrases was missed.
Despite a few minor glitches, this still ranks as a fine quality performance.