The Chicago Bach Project will present Grammy Award winner John Nelson, a Wheaton College graduate, conducting Bach’s Mass in B Minor at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, in St. Vincent de Paul Church, presented by Glen Ellyn-based Soli Deo Gloria.
Nelson co-founded Soli Deo Gloria, which offers the performance as the third installment in its three-part cycle of Bach’s religious masterworks.
Soloists will include soprano Nicole Cabell, Chicago-based international opera star; American-born, Europe-based dramatic mezzo-soprano Jane Henschel; American tenor Stanford Olsen; and English bass-baritone Matthew Brook. Musical forces will include the Chicago Bach Choir and Orchestra. Chorus master is Donald Nally, former chorus master at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Henschel, an opera singer and concert soloist of international stature, will make her Chicago debut in the March 27 performance. She has made 100 appearances with England's Royal Opera at Covent Garden. Recent major U.S. appearances include the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2012 concert staging of Richard Strauss’s opera "Elektra."
Nelson says he hasn't worked with Henschel before, but has frequently heard her sing, noting, “She is a consummate musician and a very sensitive singer.”
Cabell and Olsen sang in the Chicago Bach Project’s 2011 St. Matthew Passion. Brook sang in the 2012 St. John Passion.
“Nicole Cabell is really one of the most gorgeous soprano voices of our time,” says Nelson, who has conducted at many of the world’s major opera houses, including the Metropolitan and Chicago Lyric. “Hers is just a golden, golden instrument.”
Nelson says Brook has “an extraordinary intelligence behind his singing. He has a passion that’s also extraordinary. He has this music in his head and in his heart.”
The conductor calls Olsen “one of the great lyric tenors of our time. His voice is perfection in this kind of music.”
A pinnacle of western classical music, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, BWV 232, has been described by music scholars and critics as “profound” and “a cathedral in sound.” The work consists of more than two dozen choral and solo numbers — choruses, arias and duets.Some of the movements feature violin and other instruments in semi-solo, obbligato roles. Bach wrote the component parts of his Mass in B Minor from 1723 until just before his death in 1750. He never lived to hear the complete work.
Nelson, who has conducted most of the world’s great orchestras, has made interpreting the great religious choral literature central to his work. He has conducted the Mass in B Minor in Paris, San Francisco, Dallas, and Lisbon, Portugal, among many other locations.
The March 27 concert will be Nelson’s first Mass in B Minor in Chicago.
“My own vision of the work is at once dramatic and at once spiritual,” Nelson says, noting he seeks to “reproduce the character of this music as it was heard back in Bach’s day, to make it as spiritual an experience as possible.”
Joseph LoSchiavo, president and CEO of Soli Deo Gloria, says the Chicago Bach Project offers concertgoers the opportunity to experience “sacred music in a sacred space” at the highest professional level of musicianship. “The visual splendor of St. Vincent de Paul provides audiences with an alternative environment to a concert hall or auditorium. It’s a setting more in keeping with where the Mass would have been performed in Bach’s day.”
The church is at 1010 W. Webster Ave. Tickets cost $40 to $75, and are available online at ChicagoBachProject.org or by calling (630) 984-4300.
Chicago Bach Project
The Chicago initiative is modeled on the decade-long series that Nelson conducted at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral with the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris.
Nelson’s 2006 performance of the Mass in B Minor in Paris was released internationally on DVD that same year on the Virgin Classics label. Nelson’s many awards include a Grammy for his recording of Handel’s "Semele" on the Deutsche Grammophon label and France’s Diapason d’Or de l’Année award for Berlioz’s "Béatrice et Bénédict on Erato."
Soli Deo Gloria is a nonprofit organization founded in 1993. Its mission is to enhance, promote and preserve classical religious music in the Biblical tradition. The organization sponsors concerts around the world and recordings on CD and DVD, while commissioning new music from the world’s leading composers.