Ensemble Caprice performs Bach’s Mass in B Minor
On Thursday night, the old Darling Foundry was packed to the brim to see Ensemble Caprice perform Bach’s Mass in B Minor as part of the Montreal Bach Festival. An abandoned factory in Old Montreal, the Foundry was an innovative venue choice. With its exposed brick walls, the hall was resonant, perfectly suited to choral sonorities although at times muddying the solos and the period instruments. It is interesting to listen to such deeply religious works as the Mass in B Minor in a context entirely removed from the church; the secular modernity of the Darling Foundry highlighted this contrast between cathedral and concert hall.
Led by Matthias Maute, Ensemble Caprice gave a compelling performance. The opening Kyrie displayed the power and beauty of the evening’s highlight: the twenty-three piece chorus, who sang with passionate, exuberant conviction throughout the work. Impressive orchestral soloists included Scott Wevers (horn), Olivier Brault (violin), Matthew Jennejohn (oboe), and Sophie Larivière (flute). Tenor Michiel Schrey sang simply and sublimely in the Benedictus, a duet with flutist Larivière. The pure-voiced countertenor Pascal Bertin followed with a pleading and moving Agnus Dei.
An energetic conductor, Maute made some unusual tempo choices, starting slower than usual in the Kyrie and galloping through the Gloria. The faster tempos that scattered the mass seemed a bit frenzied, and the singers and orchestra struggled to keep it together. However, perhaps these tempos were meant to enliven and refresh the over 250-year-old work, along with some startling articulation and phrasing. Overall, Maute and his musicians conveyed the divine sounds of Bach with an original interpretation, reaching moments of sublime beauty.