On last Sunday, baritone Richard Giarusso was joined by violinist Lauren Rausch and pianist Andrew Jonathan Welch in an afternoon of music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Music lovers everywhere just recently recognized the March 21,1685 birthday of the great composer, so this concert was timely. The concert took place at Georgetown’s historic Dumbarton United Methodist Church, which is known to host an excellent series of performing arts events.

Hosted in conjunction with the Georgetown Chorale, this program was a special concert that raised awareness and money for Micah House, a transitional house for homeless women recovering from substance abuse.  A large, appreciative audience filled the beautiful church sanctuary.  Starting a little after the hour, the rays of light shining through the church’s colorful stained glass windows was an added pre-concert bonus.

When you think of the music of Bach, think of movements that naturally run in succession with one another.  For instance, his cantatas are famous for beginning with an overture (or sinfonia) a chorus, a recitative followed by an aria-which is typically in this format until the work concludes with a final chorus.  But for this concert, the artists presented the works of Bach in an even wider assortment of works.  With no relation to one another, the program even more superbly explored the depth of his output-further resonating the concert’s theme, “Consider, my Soul.”

Pianist Andrew Welch opened the program with the Fantasia from the “Partita No. 3 in A Minor, BWV 827.”  Marked with crisp, clean articulation, Welch offered a spirited opening for the impressive concert.  Baritone Richard Giarusso was joined by violinist Lauren Rausch and pianist Andrew Welch in the aria “Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten”-from Cantata No. 59. There was a particular joyfulness that exuded from Ms. Rausch’s solo violin and it was the perfect partner for the warm, resonant baritone of Mr. Giarusso.  Like so, pianist Andrew Welch was equally a supportive performer, with all three well-blended throughout.

The concert continued pretty much in the same format.  Divided in three sections, the repertoire alternated between solo vocal arias, piano works and solo violin.  Two show-stopping moments on the program in particular was the performances of two of Bach’s celebrated sonatas for unaccompanied violin by Ms. Rausch.  Delightfully intermitten were the sacred arias from several of Bach’s cornerstone choral works:  including the Saint Matthew and Saint John Passions.  Movingly rendered by baritone Giarusso was the “Gerne will ich bequemen”  from the Saint Matthew Passion.  The reflective, mournful mood of this aria was perfectly established in the ‘introduction’ by violinist Lauren Rausch.  Baritone Giarusso possesses a voice of great range-an attractive high register, as well as a rich lower range.  But here, it was the lower aspect of his voice that truly brought the mournful nature of the aria beyond the musical score.  All three artists joined in on the final aria, “Liebster Jesu” from Cantata No. 32.  A warm, bright affirming ending to an impressive concert. Giarusso shined here in the upper register of his baritone voice, with his equally talented colleagues.

The next performance will be of George Frideric Handel’s “L’Allegro, Il Penseroso” with soprano Allison Mondel, tenor Patrick Kilbride, The Georgetown Chorale and Chamber Orchestra conducted by Richard Giarusso on Saturday, April 29, 3 pm at First Congregational United Church of Christ located at 945 G Street NW, Washington, DC.

 

A native of Petersburg, Virginia, Patrick D. McCoy is a graduate of Virginia State University and Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Virginia.  He has been an arts contributor for Examiner.com, CBS Washington, The Afro American Newspaper and most recently was the Performing Arts Columnist at Washington Life Magazine for four years. As a church musician, he currently serves as Organist/Choirmaster at Saint John’s Episcopal Church (Zion Parish) in Beltsville, Maryland.   Visit www.patrickdmccoy.com for all of your arts news and send press releases and ideas to patrickdmccoy@patrickdmccoy.com.