What better way to celebrate a missionary’s career than with another mission? David Hoose, marking his 30th anniversary as director of the Cantata Singers and Ensemble, has always been a conductor at his best in proselytization, convincing listeners to believe in a work or a composer or an idea. Fitting, then, that Friday’s Cantata Singers concert — the finale of a season celebrating Hoose’s tenure — found him, again, engaged in evangelization.
Hoose’s latest gospel is the music of Jan Dismas Zelenka, a contemporary and acquaintance of Johann Sebastian Bach, but with a thoroughly individual style that is, in historical retrospect, both curious and clairvoyant. Zelenka’s Missa votiva in E minor (ZWV 18), the anchor of Friday’s concert, was an expansive exemplar. Its scope and intricacy are not unlike Bach’s B minor Mass, but Zelenka filters everything through a brightly outlined, athletic theatricality more in line with the classical era that followed him.
Color and technique are pushed to extremes. Zelenka’s fugues run an assured gamut from a modal, Renaissance-ish “Osanna” to a “Gloria” in which the echoes are so dense — a pinball “pax” bouncing from voice to voice — as to verge on a kind of liturgical slapstick. The “Credo” comes to deep, chromatic halts with every mention of death, as the solemn, stately “Crucifixus” explodes into rhythmically hurtling resurrection.
The performance was, in all aspects, zealous. The chorus was a vigorous engine, diction and rhythm crisp, exuberantly ricocheting through the music’s intricate angles. Soprano Karyl Ryczek sang with a pearly tone that was sometimes too willowy for Zelenka’s darting lines, but her “Benedictus” was a highlight, a delicate, floating blessing. Lynn Torgove gave the “Et incarnatus est” a deep-shadowed, formidably consistent alto. The work’s baritone solos are of clarion emphasis, and Sumner Thompson delivered in grand, stentorian style; tenor Stephen Williams gave clear account of his fewer lines.
Zelenka’s ahead-of-his-time stylings were mirrored in the opener, Mozart’s expertly old-fashioned “Ave verum corpus,” which Hoose simply unfurled like a bolt of silk. Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 47 was more pointed, something like a magician’s confidently fluent patter, each of Haydn’s bait-and-switch stratagems falling into place with inevitable surprise. The symphony’s centerpiece is a minuet and trio in which each section doubles back on itself in note-for-note reverse. With Hoose finishing his 30th season while the group looks forward to its 50th, it could have been a musical mantra: look back and looking forward with equal grace.