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Historic Site Event : Belgian Group In Bachs Program At Rotunda

April 09, 1985|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Staff Writer

Scorn not the extremes of acoustical characteristics, echoing and dryness; they have their uses.

In the polychoral music of the Baroque, for instance, the presence of echo can be most affecting, textually colorful, awe-inspiring.

It certainly proved to be so on Easter Sunday afternoon, when the peripatetic, ever-surprising concert series, Chamber Music in Historic Sites, took over the first-floor rotunda at City Hall and installed there the Collegium Vocale of Ghent, led by its founder-conductor, Philippe Herreweghe.

Singing a program of music by J. S. Bach and two of his forebears, the 24-member ensemble from Belgium displayed the musical skills, vocal powers and text-identification to convert the heathen. After two brief hours of hearing this accomplished group breathing life into these sacred scores, listeners of any persuasion might be brought to their knees.

As connoisseurs know, mild echoing and acoustical mush are not synonymous. Indeed, the hallmark of this particular event was clarity. Clear and pure tones of good size emerged consistently from the young singers; crisp words--unmistakable consonants and vowels riding on blended choral sounds--never became lost or compromised.

Most important, the combination of sound, word and performing intensity, under Herrewehe's firm but unobtrusive leadership, seemed to bring fresh meanings to familiar texts.

For some listeners, the opportunity to hear works for double choir by J.S. Bach's great-uncle, Johann, and by his most respected predecessor, Johann Christoph Bach (a cousin of J. S. Bach's father), might seem only novel. As it turned out, three motets by Johann and Johann Christoph's "Lieber Herr Gott" proved their worth in impeccable re-creations by the singers from Ghent.

But, naturally, the peaks in this memorable performance--co-sponsored by Mount St. Mary's College and the Los Angeles City Council--occurred at those points closing its halves. There, the Belgian musicians delivered, in J. S. Bach's "Komm, Jesu, Komm" and "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied," a full measure of treasurable sound, musical integrity and religious conviction.

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