Chorale provides seasonal treat
By Frank Merkling
NEWS-TIMES ARTS CRITIC
NEWTOWN — If ever pain was transmuted into art, it happened
in Prague in 1877.
That was when Antonin Dvorak, having just lost all of his first three children within
two years, finished his “Stabat Mater,” which tells of Mary’s suffering at the cross.
Tina Johns Heidrich led the Connecticut Master Chorale in the work Sunday afternoon at
St. Rose of Lima Church — packed full, as is usual at these events.
The 50-some singers and orchestra of 19, prepared to perfection, performed with passion
and also with discretion, guided by a fervent conductor who makes one think of a darkly
flickering votive candle.
Heidrich wrung the last drop of grief from Dvorak’s plangent yet full-bodied opening
movement, and the succeeding nine sections ran the gamut of this Czech composer’s piquant
motifs and heartily Romantic idiom.
The four soloists all showed a trained tremulousness that not only suited the Latin
text but contrasted well with necessarily “straighter” singing from a gifted but amateur
Andrew Childs, an incisive tenor, was heard first and started off the work’s second
half as well.
Soprano Michelle Abraham let loose clarion highs whenever Dvorak calls for them, which
is often, and alto Valeria Girardi made the most of the penultimate “Inflammatus” — a sort
of sinner’s trampling along without chorus.
The bass, David Shapero, used his shadowy-timbred voice most expressively in “Fac ut
ardeat,” punctuated by stabs on the organ from Joseph Jacovino Jr.
Especially attractive were “Eia, Mater, fons amoris” and “Virgo, virginum praeclara,”
the latter a gentle but tricky duet of supplication for the basses and woodwinds.
Needless to say, this Lenten treat ended on a promise of hope. After so much snow, can
Easter be far behind?