‘De profundis” is how Psalm 130, in Latin, begins — “Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord” — so it’s an appropriate title for the four works, from four countries, that Martin Pearlman and Boston Baroque presented as a Lenten offering Saturday at Jordan Hall. Giacomo Carissimi’s “Jephte” was followed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s “Missa Assumpta est Maria.” After intermission came Bach’s Cantata No. 106, “Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit,” and then Handel’s “Chandos Anthem” No. 8.
Jephtha, in the Book of Judges, promises, in return for victory over the Ammonites, to sacrifice as a burnt offering to God the first thing to greet him on his return home. Was he expecting a sheep to amble out and congratulate him? Instead, of course, it’s his daughter. Carissimi’s oratorio shifts abruptly from triumph to tragedy, the wailing of the defeated Ammonites echoed in that of the abject daughter during the two months’ respite Jephtha grants her.
Charpentier’s Mass is not a Lenten work; it may even have been written for a meeting of Parlement. But the Assumption of the Virgin Mary made a powerful programming contrast to the fate of Jephtha’s daughter, and just as his only-begotten child is sacrificed, so, in the Credo of the Mass, is God’s. The Bach cantata, an early work to which the title “Actus Tragicus” has been attached, was written for a funeral; it reminds us, soberly, that we live at God’s will before then rejoicing in the Resurrection. That led straight into the Handel anthem, which, beginning “O come let us sing unto the Lord,” draws on a number of Psalms for its song of praise.
Boston Baroque, onducted by Martin Pearlman
This quartet made for a cogent, if long (2½ hours), evening, the pieces ranging chronologically from some time before 1649 to 1718, the two Catholic works preceding intermission, the two Protestant works following. The spotlight was on the chorus, and it delivered full-bodied, dramatic, almost lusty performances, with some occasional shrillness in the sopranos. There was ample variety, especially in the Mass, from the rollicking “Amen” of the Gloria to the surprisingly laid-back opening and the tender “Incarnatus” of the Credo. The quiet majesty of the “Plorate, filii Israel” that concludes “Jephte” was surpassed only by that of the Agnus Dei from the Mass.
I particularly liked the seamless transition Pearlman made between the cantata’s sinfonia and the chorus’s spirited but serene declaration that “God’s time is the best of all times.” The vocal soloists, all drawn from the chorus, were uniformly gratifying, from alto Kamala Soparkar as the narrator at the beginning of the Carissimi to tenor Jonas Budris at the end of the Handel. And though it wasn’t the orchestra’s night, I couldn’t help appreciating Marc Schachman’s meaty oboe in the Handel, and Peter Sykes’s nuanced continuo organ throughout.
Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org