North Carolina Symphony to perform Bach’s Christmas oratorio

Dec. 05, 2013 @ 04:59 AM

Music Director Grant Llewellyn has assembled a distinguished cast of vocal soloists to join the North Carolina Symphony and the North Carolina Master Chorale for performances of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio this week.

The performances are set for Dec. 6-7 in Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh and will begin at 8 p.m. The final three cantatas of the work will be performed.

“First performed in Leipzig during the Christmas season of 1734-35, Bach’s joyful work both surprised and delighted audiences with its beautiful melodies and gorgeous harmonies,” according to a news release from the symphony. “Precise, inspired and vibrant, this gorgeous choral masterpiece goes straight to the heart and has captivated audiences for more than 250 years.” Featured soloists are Kristen Watson, soprano; Krista River, mezzo-soprano; Richard Clement, tenor; and Philip Cutlip, bass. The North Carolina Master Chorale will also participate.

Soprano Kristen Watson has made solo appearances with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Mark Morris Dance Group, Boston Baroque, Emmanuel Music and the Handel & Haydn Society at such venues as Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Boston’s Symphony Hall. Praised for her “keen musicianship, agility and seamless control,” Watson has been recognized by the Concert Artists Guild, Oratorio Society of New York, Joy in Singing, American Bach Society and Louisville Bach Society competitions and was awarded the Virginia Best Adams Fellowship at the Carmel Bach Festival.

Hailed by Opera News for her “lovely clarity and golden color,” mezzo-soprano Krista River has a repertoire ranging from the Baroque period to the 21st century. She was a winner of the 2004 Concert Artists Guild International Competition and a 2007 grant recipient from the Sullivan Foundation. Recent notable performances include the International Water and Life Festival in Qinghai, China, and recitals at Jordan Hall in Boston, the Asociación Nacional de Conciertos in Panama City, Panama, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, for which the New York Times praised her “warm voice and witty interpretive style.”

Richard Clement is a Grammy Award-winning tenor whose repertoire ranges from Baroque to contemporary. Highlights from recent seasons include performances with the Israel Philharmonic under Kurt Masur, the Czech Philharmonic, Saint Louis Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra. His operatic credits include engagements with Vancouver Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Boston Baroque, Atlanta Opera and Boston Lyric Opera, as well as the New York Philharmonic and Colorado Symphony. An Atlanta native and former member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Clement studied voice at Georgia State University and at the Cincinnati Conservatory.

Philip Cutlip, bass, has performed with a distinguished list of conductors, according to the symphony news release. His appearance as Joseph de Rocher in Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking,” with Joyce DiDonato and Frederica von Stade for Houston Grand Opera, has been released on Virgin Records. A distinctive element in Mr. Cutlip’s career is his ongoing collaboration with dance companies and avant-garde ensembles alike, starting with his first appearance with the New York City Ballet to perform songs by Charles Ives. He has toured internationally with the Hamburg Ballet singing Bernstein’s Dances, and has appeared on European and American tours of Philip Glass’s “Les Enfants Terribles,” including the world premiere in Zug, Switzerland.

The North Carolina Master Chorale, led by Music Director Alfred E. Sturgis, has been performing choral-orchestral masterworks for more than 60 years. The Master Chorale boasts two ensembles: a 170-voice symphonic choir and a 22-voice professional chamber choir that presents a diverse repertoire from the Renaissance to contemporary. Its singers, selected by audition, bring a collective wealth of training and experience. The Master Chorale regularly collaborates with symphony orchestras, opera companies, ballet and touring productions.

North Carolina Symphony concertgoers can also attend pre-concert talks, post-concert discussions, and “Meet the Artists” events, which feature interactive conversations with guest artists and select orchestra members. For the Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7 performances in Raleigh, Jonathan Kramer of N.C. State University will give pre-concert talks at 7 p.m. in the Swalin Lobby of Meymandi Concert Hall. At intermission both nights, North Carolina Symphony musicians will be on hand in the lower lobby of Meymandi Concert Hall for audience members to “Ask A Musician.”

Tickets to the Raleigh Classical Series performances on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6-7, range from $24 to $75. Student tickets are $15. Meymandi Concert Hall is located in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., in Raleigh.

Founded in 1932, the North Carolina Symphony gives more than 200 performances annually to adults and school children in more than 50 North Carolina counties. An entity of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, the orchestra employs 66 professional musicians, under the artistic leadership of Music Director and Conductor Grant Llewellyn and Resident Conductor William Henry Curry.