The Rias-Kammerchor and the Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin joined forces in a program of Baroque sacred music by Bach, C.P.E. Bach and Handel. Led by Hans-Christoph Rademann, the choir and the orchestra, along with singers Christina Landshamer, Wiebke Lehmkul, Lothar Odinius and Thomas E. Bauer performed with verve and gusto.

The evening opened with the Credo from Bach’s Mass in B minor, here presented with an opening movement by Bach’s son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. Ranging in emotion from rambunctious with joy to gasping with despair, Bach’s Credo is the perfect thing to hear if you are in need of soothing. Completed in 1749, a year before Bach’s death, the Mass in B minor is catalogued as “the great Catholic mass”, and was never performed in full during Bach’s lifetime. The Credo is elegant enough to stand by itself. Christina Landshamer and Wiebke Lehmkuhl sang the duet with clean, calm voices, though they were slightly drowned out by the orchestra. This improved as the evening progressed and their voices warmed up. Thomas E. Bauer’s bass aria was engaging; deep and powerful but not overpowering, he sang with warmth and ease. Accompanied only by violin, viola, cello and organ, Bauer thrilled with beautiful low notes and a clean upper register. Through it all, the Akademie fur Alte Musik played with verve, and the Rias-Kammerchor embodied the joy, pain and triumph of the music.  

Handel’s aria “Ich weis, dass mein Erloser lebet” was beautifully sung by Christina Landshamer. Overcoming her earlier quietness, Landshamer sang this warm and peaceful hymn with a clean, clear voice. The Hallelujah Chorus that followed was sung in German, an unusual choice, but an understandable one. The Rias-Kammerchor sang it with great passion.

The second half of the concert was dedicated to the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and was less of a success than the first half, though the chorus and orchestra were excellent throughout. After an hour of J.S. Bach and Handel, whose compositions are tasteful without sacrificing passion, C.P.E Bach’s Symphony in D, Magnificat in D and Heilig were as giddy and bubbly as a teenager on a sugar high. Written at breakneck tempo, the pace of the three pieces was enough to leave the audience gasping, and it was with a profound sense of relief that the evening ended. For all that, though, the playing was impeccable. The Symphony in D was led by the concert master, an interesting but excellent choice. The piece itself is frenetic, breathless and  pattering, but the Akademie fur Alte Musik played with great gusto. Likewise, the Magnificat was almost stressful, it went at such a breathless pace, but the singers were in fine form, and the tenor, Lothar Odinius, sang an excellent aria. Hans-Christoph Rademann excellent conducting kept the piece from being too much to take.

The nearest we came to majesty in the second half was the Heilig. Though the audience’s patience was tested by the stage being completely reset for this piece, the delay ultimately paid off. Less speedy than either the Symphony or the Magnificat, the Heilig allowed the singers to be powerful and majestic. Wiebke Lehmkuhl led the piece with an excellent arietta; her voice was dark as good chocolate, her technique sure. It was an excellent way to end the evening.