Oratorio Society of New York Coming to Carnegie Hall, 5/20
Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion was written to be performed at Good Friday services at Leipzig's St. Thomas Church around 1727-29. "The work transferred from church to concert hall by way of Felix Mendelssohn, who virtually broke the piece out of its grave," said OSNY Music Director Kent Tritle. "From then on, the incredible and expansive emotional appeal of Bach's writing carried the work from choral society to choral society, and today it is a concert touchstone that we cannot do without."
To conclude the OSNY's 2013-14 Carnegie Hall season, Tritle will lead the Oratorio Society in their first performance together of Bach's choral masterpiece on Tuesday, May 20, 2014, at 8:00 PM. The vocal soloists joining the OSNY are tenor Nicholas Phan as the Evangelist, bass-baritone Kevin Deas as Jesus, and soprano Leslie Fagan, mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer, tenor Matthew Plenk, and baritone Mischa Bouvier.
When the Oratorio Society of New York, the city's standard for grand choral performance, offered Handel's Messiah in its annual presentation in December 2013, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim wrote in The New York Times, "when the entire chorus belted out the word 'wonderful' in 'For unto us a child is born' the effect was exactly that. So was the 'hallelujah.'" The OSNY has lately been collaborating with other major New York music organizations, having participated in the New York Philharmonic's "Philharmonic 360" extravaganza at the Park Avenue Armory in 2012, and a performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, led by Sir Roger Norrington, at Carnegie Hall in March 2014, about which Harry Rolnick of ConcertoNet said, "The chorus responded with electrifying alacrity."
Kent Tritle, one of America's leading choral conductors, is in his ninth season as Music Director of the Oratorio Society of New York. Called "the brightest star in New York's choral music world" by The New York Times, he is also Director of Cathedral Music and Organist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Music Director of Musica Sacra, the longest continuously performing professional chorus in New York. In addition, Tritle is Director of Choral Activities at the Manhattan School of Music and is a member of the graduate faculty of The Juilliard School. He is the host of the weekly radio show "The Choral Mix with Kent Tritle," an hour-long radio program on New York's Classical 105.9 WQXR and www.wqxr.org. An acclaimed organ virtuoso, he is also the organist of the New York Philharmonic and the American Symphony Orchestra. www.kenttritle.com
Named one of National Public Radio's Favorite New Artists of 2011, Nicholas Phan continues to distinguish himself as one of today's most compelling young tenors. In the Benjamin Britten centennial year, Phan garnered praise for his focus on and affinity for the composer's music, and for his most recent recordings, Winter Words, and Still Falls the Rain, both all-Britten discs. www.nicholas-phan.com
Kevin Deas has gained international acclaim as one of America's leading bass-baritones. He is perhaps most acclaimed for his signature portrayal of the title role in Porgy and Bess, having performed it with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras, National Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the symphonies of Atlanta, Baltimore, Calgary, Houston, Milwaukee, , Montreal, San Diego, San Francisco, Utah, and Vancouver, and at the Ravinia, Vail, and Saratoga festivals. He repeated the role in concert to open the Seattle Symphony's 2013-14 Pops Season. Kevin Deas biography
Soprano Leslie Fagan's exceptional artistry and talent continue to garner much attention on international stages. Having performed under the batons of such noted conductors as Hans Graf, Sir David Willcocks, Jukke Pekke Saraste, Kent Tritle, and Daniel Lipton, Ms. Fagan has delighted audiences and critics alike at Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Bordeaux Opera House, Roy Thomson Hall, and Massey Hall. www.lesliefagan.com
Susanne Mentzer is one of today's foremost mezzo-sopranos, enjoying a significant opera, concert, and recital career, with a particular interest in chamber music, and she is known as an interpreter of the vocal works of Mahler and as a proponent of women's music. Operatically she specializes in music Mozart, Berlioz, and Richard Strauss. www.susannementzer.com
This season, tenor Matthew Plenk returned to both the Metropolitan Opera and the Virginia Opera as Tamino in The Magic Flute. A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in the 2007-08 season as the Sailor's Voice in Tristan und Isolde under the baton of Maestro James Levine. Mr. Plenk made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Metropolitan Opera Chamber Ensemble, singing the Brahms Liebeslieder Walzer and duets by Schumann. www.matthewplenk.com
Praised by The New York Times for his "rich timbre" and "fine sense of line," Mischa Bouvier is a winner of the 2010 CAG Victor Elmaleh Competition. Highlights in 2013-14 included Mischa's Alice Tully Hall debut with Musica Sacra singing the New York premiere of Jocelyn Hagan's amass, and Handel's Messiah in a return engagement with the American Bach Soloists. An advocate for new music, Mischa offered a series of concerts in 2012-13 at Brooklyn's Barbès Bar focusing on contemporary music and exploring American song in collaboration with soprano Sarah Wolfson. http://mischabouvier.com
"The Oratorio Society has held the line for choral grandeur," said The New York Times of the Society's performance of Handel's Messiah at Carnegie Hall in 2008. Since its founding in 1873, the OSNY, New York's own 200-voice avocational chorus, has become the city's standard for grand, joyous choral performance. Since 2005 the chorus has been led by Music Director Kent Tritle, called "New York City's foremost choral conductor" by Time Out New York. "The sheer energy of the Society's sound had an enveloping fervor," wrote Allan Kozinn in The New York Times of a 2008 presentation of Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem, and of a 2005 performance of Messiah, Jeremy Eichler said in the Times, "this was . . . a vibrant and deeply human performance, made exciting by the sheer heft and depth of the chorus's sound."
The Oratorio Society has performed the world, U.S., and New York premieres of works as diverse as Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem (1877), Berlioz' Roméo et Juliette (1882), a full-concert production of Wagner's Parsifal at the Metropolitan Opera House (1886), Tchaikovsky's a cappella Legend and Pater noster (1891) and Eugene Onegin (1908), the now-standard version of The Star Spangled Banner (1917; it became the national anthem in 1931), Bach's B-minor Mass (1927), Dvoràk's St. Ludmila (1993), Britten's The World of the Spirit (1998), Juraj Filas' Song of Solomon (2012), and Paul Moravec's Blizzard Voices (2013), as well as works by Handel, Liszt, Schütz, Schubert, Debussy, Elgar, and Saint Saëns, among others. On its 100th anniversary the Oratorio Society received the Handel Medallion, New York City's highest cultural award, in recognition of these contributions. www.oratoriosocietyofny.org