Music Reviews : Choral Society Offers Program of Rare Works

Nick Strimple, conductor of the Choral Society of Southern California, has long kept an eye open for unfamiliar works, and the programs given by the 7-year-old ensemble have usually reflected that. At Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church Sunday afternoon, listeners were introduced to no fewer than 10 works falling outside the pale of the standard repertory.

How satisfying it was to discover the contrapuntal craftsmanship of Krystof Harant's six-part motet, "Qui Confidunt in Domino" written in 1598; the simple, unpretentious lyricism of William Billings' "David's Lamentation," and the spirited buoyancy of Carl Theodor Pachelbel's "Magnificat" (his only known work).

Each performance reflected the virtues of musicianship and good taste: Musical lines flowed artfully, releases were clean and dynamics carefully observed. Because of sectional inequities within the 50-member chorus, however, Strimple was not able to perfect balances.

Least satisfying were three choruses from Mozart's "Thamos, King of Egypt," K. 345, which opened the program; the choristers brought insufficient clarity to the German text and insufficient confidence to some of their entrances. Soprano Barbara Hancock sang her solo lines handsomely; four other soloists performed acceptably. Pianist Timothy Steele provided effective accompaniment.

Midway though the program, organist Joyce Jones offered engaging readings of two contemporary Czech works, a brilliant, colorful piece by Jiri Dvoracek and a neatly constructed, less interesting one by Petr Eben. The Texas-based musician then skillfully exploited the wit in Ives' Variations on "America."

The program closed with Louis Vierne's "Messe Solennelle," a typical, French Romantic expression of faith in a style not unlike Franck's. The singers gave a disciplined yet ebullient performance, and dual organists Jones and Steele added to the excitement.

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