The solemn yet masterful work by Johannes Brahms “Ein deutsches Requiem” is considered his most complex and moving work. In this program it found an unexpected companion in Jonathan Leshnoff’s “Zohar,” a celebration of life based on the pillar of Jewish mysticism.
…an excellent night of music.
The evening started off with a conversation about what exactly the “Zohar” is. Led by Cantors Laura Croen and Michael Shochet, the audience was introduced to the significance of the work and the depth of study involved. Leshnoff’s piece was recently commissioned and is part of the Jewish Identity Through Music series at Strathmore.
The piece was specifically composed to be a companion to Brahms’ “Requiem.” The National Philharmonic Chorale was stirring at the beginning and was able to really show off its versatility. The orchestra demonstrated great skill throughout and found a marvelous balance with the chorale. Nmon Ford, the baritone soloist, had a gentle yet soaring voice that captured power and sweetness all in one. The soprano, Danielle Talamantes, truly sounded angelic and welcoming. The piece ends hauntingly, in a meditative hum that leads to great reflection.
The nature of Brahms’ ‘Reqiuem’ is to comfort the mourning so naturally it is very grave with some movements seeming more hopeful and others more despairing. Throughout though there is a great deal of raw soul to wrestle with. Ford was given the opportunity to truly shine with his beautifully flowing voice during the third movement, which was almost pastoral. Talamantes achieved a reflective sweetness that was remarkable and displayed her great control over her powerful voice. The orchestra played masterfully, as always, with effortless ease.
The program was a wonderful reminder of how two of music from different times and cultures can complement each other well. The themes were closely related and made for an excellent night of music.
Running Time: Two and a half hours with one intermission.
Brahms’ “Requiem” was performed March 18 at the Music Center at Strathmore. For tickets and more information click here.