After trekking from Carnegie Hall to Lincoln Center and back on a regular basis, it’s nice to encounter some grass-roots music-making that’s a bit closer to home, and the Florilegium Chamber Choir’s Sunday-afternoon performance at the Upper West Side’s Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church fit the bill in all regards. Although a mixed ensemble of avocational and professional musicians, the quality of musicianship was admirable and the programming adventurous.
Sandwiched between Bach’s mysterious Cantata No. 131 and Bruckner’s triumphant Te Deum, the group gave a captivating premiere of Reiko Füting’s silently wanders/extensio for choir, mezzo soprano, organ, and solo cello. Conductor Nicholas DeMaison navigated the ensemble through the spacious score, one that alternated meditative organ solos with choral movements that were both reflective and stuttering.
Comprising texts of E.E. Cummings and Reiner Bonack, Füting’s settings made brilliant use of stammered consonants—often displacing the first or last sound from their respective word, akin to Cummings’ own use of avant-garde letter spacing and lack of punctuation. Mezzo soloist Nani Füting traversed the wide-ranging solo, diverse in its use of both sweeping and dramatic melodies, as well as Pierrot Lunaire-esque points of speech-song. Here, too, the displaced consonant added an incredible sense of text painting, with the final “t” of the German “zeit (time)” transforming into a ticking clock that gradually faded into the hushed return of the pipe organ.
Both the Bach and the Bruckner were given dedicated readings, making up for a lack of polished technique with a spirited delivery. Especially in the Bruckner (in which the choir sounded particularly resonant while stationed in the choir loft), DeMaison led the assembled forces through clear, articulate entrances while producing a consistently uniform sound.
Beautifully coordinated moments were plentiful, especially in the “Aeterna fac,” where serpentine melodic fragments built successively while gradually gaining in volume—an effect that paid off in the final evocation of “gloria numerari (eternal glory).”
Kudos must be given to DeMaison and the Florilegium singers for regularly showcasing new music onto their programs. While the orchestral world has become startlingly progressive in its inclusion of living composers, the same cannot usually be said for their choral counterparts. To hear a work like Füting’s in the midst of staples like Bach and Bruckner is to realize that the human voice’s most thrilling counterpart is actually the consolatory hum of reverent silence.