BMC Bach

Baritone Sanford Sylvan 1953-2019

BRATTLEBORO — The Blanche Moyse Chorale will present a program of four cantatas by J.S. Bach, dedicated to the memory of beloved baritone Sanford Sylvan, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13 at the Brattleboro Music Center.

Under the direction of Mary Westbrook-Geha, the chorale has selected four cantatas that Sylvan sang during his more than 20 years of warm affiliation with the chorale and with the New England Bach Festival and Marlboro Music Festival. Sylvan died suddenly in January at age 65.

“He was the truest singer of his generation,” wrote F. Paul Driscoll in Opera News. “The most powerful element of Sylvan’s singular magic was his purity of intention, which allowed him to sing everything with startling, uncompromising clarity.”

Jonathan Blumhofer of The Arts Fuse wrote, “Sylvan’s impact on his field was immense and broad, be that as muse, performer or teacher.”

The Oct. 11 and 13 performances of the four cantatas will feature the Blanche Moyse Chorale and the Blanche Moyse Memorial Orchestra. The cantatas that Sylvan performed with them over the years span a range of moods and musical styles. The program begins with the joyful Cantata BWV 100, followed by the meditative Cantata BWV 105. After intermission, the concert continues with the plaintive Cantata BWV 131 and concludes with the glorious Cantata BWV 140.

The chorale and orchestra will be joined by vocal soloists, soprano Hyunah Yu, tenor Steven Paul Spears, mezzo-soprano Katherine Maysek and bass Nathaniel Sullivan. From 1998-2004, Yu and Spears often joined Westbrook-Geha and Sylvan as soloists at the New England Bach Festivals and Marlboro Music Festivals. Maysek and Sullivan were students of Sylvan.

In a 2001 interview, Sylvan spoke of the significance of his work with Blanche Moyse, which he said was among the most influential in a career that included work from Pierre Boulez, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Christopher Hogwood, James Levine and Simon Rattle, not to mention frequent collaborations with Peter Sellars and John Adams.

“She was kind of a musical godmother to me,” Sylvan said. “Blanche was the standard for all of us. … She got to the bottom of it all, all the time, and she expected you to go there with her.”

The Blanche Moyse Chorale, a program of the Brattleboro Music Center, is an auditioned chamber chorus of about 30 singers, drawn from the Brattleboro area and beyond. Westbrook-Geha has brought to the Chorale her expertise in vocal technique and her strong background in the music of Bach, having sung mezzo-soprano and contralto roles for many years at Boston’s Emmanuel Church, the Marlboro Music Festival and the New England Bach Festival.

Tickets are $25, $22 in advance, $10 for students; call 802-257-4523, or go online to https://bmcvt.org.

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