Under music director J. Ernest Green, the Annapolis Chorale and the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra presented a transcendent program of joyous masterpieces titled "Praise and Majesty" to open their 38th season.
Green delivered a pre-concert lecture, accompanied by solo violinist Natasha Korsakova.
Promising "an evening of beautiful music," Green shared what inspired him to put together a program that featured two musical giants: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his "Overture to Don Giovanni," plus religious anthems "Laudate Dominum" and "Ave verum corpus," combined with Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto and "How Lovely are Your Dwellings " from his German Requiem.
Few conductors can so easily make accessible the work of such musical geniuses. Other religious music included works by Faure, Mendelssohn and Lewandowski. Also performed was "Meditation" from Jules Massenet's opera "Thais."
Combining these selections underscored Green's need to stretch the concert format while introducing yet another extraordinary musical talent in Korsakova.
The concert opened with Mozart's "Overture to Don Giovanni" — considered by opera composers Rossini, Gounod and Wagner the greatest opera ever composed. Mozart wrote the overture the night before the opera was first performed. It opens solemnly, almost ominously, in a minor key before moving briskly into a joyous refrain, leading into the opera's opening comic scene. This brilliant opening whet the audience's appetite for Green's modern take on this masterpiece, "A Day in the Life of Don Giovanni," slated for Nov. 12 and 13 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.
Brahms' "Violin Concerto" presents a number of well-known challenges and demands great technique — which Korsakova has in abundance. She played with a poetic expressiveness that was most notable in the shimmering melody begun by a solo oboe.
Korsakova was sensitively accompanied throughout by the orchestra in this powerful lyrical work. Her arms became an artistic visual element when paired with the glowing sound of her instrument. From the opening passage of the first movement, Korsakova played with a lyrical singing approach that was beautiful. Green's accompaniment was sensitive and well-shaped.
The second half of the program proved as innovative as the first, with several demanding and equally important choral works of the Christian and Jewish faiths, many taken from Psalms and all gloriously sung by the Annapolis Chorale.
First the audience was introduced to the work of German composer Louis Lewandowski in "Psalm 150," a soulful 19th-century work written and sung in Hebrew that majestically combines choir and orchestra.
Next came another masterwork from Johannes Brahms, "Ein deutsches Requiem" a setting of Psalm 84 — "How lovely are your dwellings, O Lord." Brahms' Requiem does not present any horrific Last Judgment scene, but rather offers solace for those who mourn the dead and reveals in lovely melodies a beautiful eternal dwelling place.
Mozart's work also returned in the second half of the program in two lovely pieces. "Laudate Dominum" is a Catholic piece that contains a soprano solo passage beautifully sung by local longtime favorite soprano Carolene Winter. This was followed by Mozart's "Ave verum corpus," a three-minute piece of 46 measures that was sublimely realized by chorus and orchestra.
After an interesting 19th-century work — "Cantique de Jean Racine" by Gabriel Faure, which he composed when he was a 19-year-old student — another musical highlight was provided by Korsakova's gorgeous "Meditation" from Massenet's "Thais." This was given the most moving interpretation I have ever heard.
The program ended on a huge note with Felix Mendelssohn's "Psalm 91 — Sing to the Lord a New Song," which showcased the magnificent breadth of the Annapolis Chorale singers, flawlessly supported by the orchestra. This added up to another heavenly sound for audience members to remember as the musical evening ended.
•The next classical concert in the Live Arts series will be Nov. 12 and 13, when Green's new vision of Don Giovanni will be performed.
•Scheduled holiday concerts include two performances of "A Celebration of Christmas," Dec. 9 and 10, and performances of Handel's "Messiah," Dec. 17 and 19.