Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

I'd Like To Thank The Academy

March 08, 2010

Grant Gershon, the LA Master Chorale, and Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra
Photo: mine 2010

It may have been Oscar night, but the Los Angeles Master Chorale mostly filled the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday for a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. I know it seems there would be a lot of overlap between the typical LAMC audience and the typical Oscar show audience, but nonetheless there were bodies in the seats so somebody had made some tough decisions. I myself had just gotten off a plane from Chicago and was very glad I made the choice I did because it was a very good performance from the talented vocal artists of the chorale.

Of course, the evening was particularly blessed not only with the leadership of director Grant Gershon, but also by the forces of Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra. As is usually the case, the LAMC sounds just that much better when they’re paired with an orchestra good enough to keep up with them. Gershon took a very balanced and magisterial approach to the piece. In recent years, I seem to have run across an increasing number of semi- and fully staged productions of this work and I must admit I’ve rather grown to love performances that play up the operatic and theatrical aspects of Bach’s work. And while this was not one of them, Gershon and the LAMC did maintain a reverence and spiritual quality to the evening that made it worthwhile.

The many soloists were drawn from the ranks of the chorale and most were quite good. I was particularly fond of Steve Pence’s Jesus. I think he also had some of the most reasonable German of the evening. In fact, considering the accent and diction issues overall, it seems like it might have been better just to perform the work in English translation. Such an approach has worked well for directors like Jonathan Miller, and a translation can emphasize the more communal aspects of the work. But, in any event, it was another lovely evening from the LAMC.


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