BACH: SIX MOTETS (5-14-06) 

By Lawrence Budmen

Few creative artists can match the ingenuity, imagination, and sheer genius of Johann Sebastian Bach. Among the diverse output of that remarkable master, the Six Motets occupy a special place. Each of these brief but immaculately crafted pieces was composed for a specific church service or occasion. 

Miamiís astounding professional chamber choir Seraphic Fire concluded its season on Sunday with a rare performance of these incredible testaments to the human spirit. 

Artistic Director Patrick Dupre Quigley led a performance steeped in scholarship yet vibrantly alive in musical pulse and resonance. In a nod to the authentic performance movement in Baroque music, Quigley assigned one voice to each of Bachís twelve part vocal inventions. The resulting beauty and clarity of line was a tribute to the choirís tremendously gifted singers. Bachís harmonic variety and invention seems to ascend from the heavens. 

In Singert dem Herrn ein Neues Lied (Sing to the Lord a new song!) BWV 225, the choirís precision and articulation brought absolute clarity to the contrapuntal writing. The musicís high soprano lines held no terrors for these stalwart singers. In the chorale section, the groupís harmonic sonority rose to other worldly beauty.

Komm, Jesu, Komm (Come, Jesus, Come) BWV 229 sang with exalted simplicity of utterance. The motet was underpinned by the superb continuo of Henry Lebedinsky, a nimble harpsichordist, and Gyongy Erodi, a cellist of deep toned vibrancy. 

Quigley had all twelve singers take turns as the four voices of Lobet Herrn, alle Heiden (Praise the Lord, all you nations) BWV 230. The final Alleluia was supremely joyous, evoking an air of celebration. 

Jesu, meine Freude (Jesu, my joy) BWV 227, the most complex of the Bach Motets, rises to a five part fugue of exquisite complexity. Two trios Ė for soprano and male voices and for three male singers Ė bring felicitous inspiration. Bachís monumental structure turns increasingly spirited and uplifting. Quigley, a supreme Baroque stylist, brought lucidity and conviction to one of Bachís most beautiful creations. 

The magisterial eloquence of Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf (The spirit helps our weakness) BWV 226 brought an angelic conclusion to Seraphic Fireís ambitious and rewarding season. 

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