Es ist vollbracht!

Es ist vollbracht — “It is accomplished,” or “It is finished,” or perhaps “All is fulfilled,” depending on which Biblical version of Jesus’s final words on the cross you prefer.  Seems appropriate as we closed out our St. John Passion performances.

The final performance tonight, broadcast on WGBH, was by far the best of the three (or four, if you include the open rehearsal.)  Our tenor evangelist had mostly recovered his voice and started to show the strength and pathos that I heard first on Tuesday.  (Plus, they brought in another tenor soloist to handle the tenor arias… it definitely made a difference.)  More importantly, though, as a chorus we were all more comfortable with Suzuki’s conducting style and knew what he was asking for (and could anticipate what he would be asking for).  Furthermore, many choristers said “screw it” and ditched the score for the later performances.  Collectively it felt as if we were more unified and responsive.

I reluctantly ditched my score as well after some encouragement from another bass, and it was the right decision.  It was soooo much easier to follow Suzuki and stay on top of tempi and to give what he was requesting.  Personally, I felt much more emotionally invested and focused on this last performance, whereas on Thursday and Friday I found my mind wandering during recitatives and arias.  I don’t know how much of that I can attribute to ditching the score, but something changed.

We also all agreed to close our folders and sing the final, most powerful movement (Ach Herr, lass dein lieb Engelein) completely by memory.  This movement, already a powerful ending, was magnified tenfold as the entire character of our sound changed when we all dropped music to our sides and sang to the rafters.  Our chorus manager communicated this decision to us; I don’t know if it was his idea, Maestro’s request (he had asked us to memorize chorales whenever possible), or if the impetus came from somewhere externally, but it was a great move.

This was the kind of concert you walk out of with that buzz in your head, a natural high from the quality of the performance, the contribution you know you made, the studying and other investment of time paying off.  The audience responded appropriately, with an even bigger roar and an extra ovation, some of them clearly moved by the whole performance.  After Thursday’s, I was worried that our hard work was going to be irreparably marred.  The Globe’s take on the concert seemed to confirm that (I’ll do a review round up later).  Fortunately, Friday afternoon and especially Saturday night dispelled that notion entirely.

3 responses to “Es ist vollbracht!

  1. Jeff, I think your analysis of the soloists is spot on. The basses were rock solid and powerful; the others, not so much (though of course we’re talking here about the difference between a performance in the 90th percentile vs one in the 99th percentile). Pregardien had his moments, but one could tell he was not in top form. He had the strength and foresight, however, to make sure he shone on the tenor’s highlight, that chromatic line on “weinete” in #12. Adding Hite was certainly a good move, but even he misstepped a couple of times. I was less impressed with the women. From my seat in 1st balcony center, they did not carry through the orchestra very well.

    The chorus, however, was extraordinary; I think you all rose to a new height. I have never heard a choral performance that was so well enunciated, and I was astounded at the way the chorus often seemed to be one voice, especially in the passages where you lifted between words. (And I swear I heard all 23 “r”s in “kreutzige.”) At the same time, you lost none of your emotional impact, from spine-tinglingly powerful in the opening and closing, to agitated, delicate, pensive, and so on. The two elements worked together– the clarity helped the emotion carry through. The highlight for me was “Mein teurer Heiland,” the second bass aria with chorus: flawless, redemptive, immensely moving.

    I’m glad the chorus can tell when the audience is cheering for you. You deserved every “bravé” last night. Thank you.

  2. I’m really glad (and smiling as I write this) that in the end you were satisfied with the performance. I wish I could have heard the Saturday performance.

    Now I’m definitely looking forward to the review of the reviews.

  3. Congratulations!
    I would have loved to have another go at the St. John’s myself, but alas we only had one performance.
    I am sure your last Chorale will have been completely satisfying to sing and to listen to with every chorister so engaged, music down.

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