Cleveland Orchestra and Seraphic Fire join forces in Miami on ravishing Bach and Bruckner

Cleveland.com
Zachary Lewis
January 29, 2017

MIAMI, Fla. – Call it even. This week in South Florida, the Cleveland Orchestra received as much from Miami as it gave.

And yet the real beneficiary was the audience. Friday and Saturday nights at the Arsht Center here, listeners experienced what might be viewed as the best of both musical communities.

From Miami came Seraphic Fire, a local but globally renowned vocal ensemble, collaborating with the orchestra on works by Bach. From the shores of Lake Erie, meanwhile, came Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7, a score the orchestra and director Franz Welser-Most have fashioned into a sort of calling card.

If ever the orchestra tread lightly here, catering to the classical novice, that time appears to have ended. Now it seems the orchestra takes Miami as seriously as it does its home base.

What a profoundly cohesive program. Even as they stand united by their deep religious faiths, Bach and Bruckner also stand miles apart stylistically. One was a Baroque master of musical economy and intricacy while the other came to define late Romanticism and epitomize the long-form symphony.

Bach, fittingly, came first. Scaled down to period-ensemble scale, the orchestra undertook with Seraphic Fire the composer’s Cantata No. 34 (“O Eternal Fire, O Source of Love”) as well as choral excerpts from Cantatas Nos. 191 and 29.

Just as Bach’s music is eternal, so could one have listened for ages. The two ensembles hung together seamlessly, producing Bach of the most shapely and effervescent variety. Welser-Most kept the orchestra, including three brilliant trumpets, in perfect balance with the singers, and Seraphic Fire lived up its reputation as a taut, mellifluous force.

Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano was an equally welcome presence. A few brief seconds out of step with the orchestra Saturday notwithstanding, her lone aria in Cantata No. 34 was a beguiling time-out, a soothing respite sung with honeyed lyricism.

(This review has been truncated as the rest of the source article did not pertain to Seraphic Fire.)
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