New Mexico Bach Chorale to perform Christmas Oratorio V and VI

Chorale to welcome the solstice with Bach’s Christmas Oratorio V and VI

The New Mexico Bach Chorale. (Courtesy of the New Mexico Performing Arts Society)

Celebrate the solstice with Bach when the New Mexico Bach Chorale comes to Santa Fe and Albuquerque next weekend.

The singers will perform the composer’s famed Christmas Oratorio: Part V, the cantata for the first Sunday in the New Year and Part VI, the cantata for the Feast of Epiphany. The Santa Fe concert will be held Friday, Nov. 25, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel; and the Albuquerque event will be Sunday, Nov. 27 at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.

Bach wrote the six cantatas to celebrate the whole period of the Christmas festivities of 1734-35, starting with Part I on Christmas Day, and ending with Part VI on Epiphany.

“We’ve been doing a cycle for the last five seasons,” said Linda Marianiello, New Mexico Performing Arts Society executive director.

“Bach originally wrote the six cantatas that became the Christmas Oratorio in different periods of his composing life.”

The massive work was not heard in its entirety until 1857, when the Berlin Sing-Akademie gave it its first public performance. The concert involved 194 singers and 45 instrumentalists, who rehearsed for 16 hours over five days.

Scholars say the nearly 30-year delay may be due to 19th century critical reception. They viewed the composer’s lighter, simpler and celebratory compositional style of the holiday piece as “childlike, naive or popular” when compared to profound works such as the St. Matthew Passion.

There was also the so-called “parody problem” – the fact that the oratorio was a reworking of previous secular works and therefore not truly sacred.

The concerts will feature eight singers serving as both chorus and soloists supported by 10 musicians.

The soloists include Jennifer Perez, Camille Tierney, Esther Moses, Patricia Henning, André García-Nuthmann, Jordan Jones, Javier Ortiz and Tim Willson.

The featured musicians are Elizabeth Baker, Natalie Frantz, Gail Robertson, Joel Becktell, Linda Marianiello, Rebecca Ray, Joe Vandiver, Gary Hudson, Ken Dean and Jacquelyn Helin.

NMPAS artistic director Franz Vote will conduct.

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