Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Los Angeles Passion

February 04, 2015

Easter came a little early to the Walt Disney Concert Hall last weekend. Of course with music like Bach’s St Matthew Passion and an ensemble like the LA Master Chorale the calendar becomes a secondary issue. While the LAMC is widely celebrated for their work with contemporary composers, the depth and magnitude of the ensemble's interpretations of large masterworks of the choral repertory are world class as well. Saturday was no exception when Grant Gershon led his choristers through a performance that was at turns reverent, harrowing, and achingly beautiful. The LAMC is blessed with their ongoing relationship with the Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra who again provided period performance support. And as it has been in several other cases, the LAMC shines most brightly when paired with an orchestral ensemble who lives up to their musical quality. Gershon managed to maintain a clarity and visceral excitement from the Musica Angelica players throughout in a relationship everyone here continues to reap the benefits from.

The St Matthew Passion is rife with chances for various choristers to take solo star turns over the course of the afternoon. This time around it was a superb Jon Lee Keenan who sang the role of the Evangelist. There was an earnestness to his approach and a youthful eagerness that gave the performance a sense of urgency that can easily go missing at times in lesser hands. Bass Chung Uk Lee sang the role of Jesus with a particular lightness the complimented the other major role in the work. But it was the grand chorus passages that made this a Passion to remember and one that made the listener eager to hear the group’s latest return to another Passion later this season, the Tan Dun, Water Passion which will take the stage on April 11 and 12. The performance also served to whet the appetite for some exciting events to come from the Chorale in coming seasons, which were announced at the time. Perhaps most enticing is a multi-year project revisiting some of Handel’s less well known oratorios, many of which will include starry soloists from various corners of the opera world. There’s much, much more ahead so be sure to stay tuned.


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