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What Is John Eliot Gardiner’s Musical Empire With out Him?

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To conduct Bach’s Mass in B minor, the conductor John Eliot Gardiner wrote, “is to be stuffed with an incredible sense of anticipation.”

You might have a sense, he continued in his guide “Bach: Music within the Citadel of Heaven,” “that you’re going to be uncovered to a heightened sense of consciousness — of the position of music, of its capability to have an effect on and alter individuals’s lives, of its energy to replicate and even to mitigate the way in which individuals reply to modern occasions.”

A lofty declare, although one befitting a reigning interpreter of this repertoire: Gardiner, 80, a scholarly flag-bearer of the traditionally knowledgeable efficiency motion for a half-century, has just about set the usual in Bach’s sacred music.

That mastery, typically rendered with a perfectionist’s precision and a pilgrim’s devotional fervor, has made his ensembles’ visits to New York main occasions 12 months after 12 months. However when the Monteverdi Choir and the interval group the English Baroque Soloists returned to Carnegie Corridor for a two-night engagement this week, for the Bach Mass and Handel’s oratorio-like ode “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato,” Gardiner was nowhere in sight. (Additionally lacking, it appears, had been a few of his traditional followers; Stern Auditorium was visibly much less full than it has been for his teams’ appearances.)

In his place was the a lot youthful — by practically 5 many years — Dinis Sousa, a succesful presence who however had extra the air of a custodian than a conductor in cost. He led wonderful performances that by no means fairly achieved the type of transcendence these musicians have routinely supplied prior to now.

Gardiner is chargeable for his personal absence. In August, after a live performance efficiency of Berlioz’s “Les Troyens” along with his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique in France, he was accused of hanging a singer within the face, reportedly for exiting the incorrect manner off the rostrum. Gardiner withdrew from the remainder of his 2023 commitments, and stated in an apologetic assertion that he was “taking a step again in an effort to get the specialist assist I acknowledge that I’ve wanted for a while.”

Sousa picked up the remainder of the “Troyens” concert events, and is now conducting the tour that stopped at Carnegie this week. Gardiner is predicted to be again onstage subsequent 12 months, however his absence now could be a reminder that he gained’t be round perpetually. And if his musical empire lives on, it must study to take action with out him.

It was tough to inform at Carnegie what that future would sound like if it had been to be underneath Sousa. The singers and instrumentalists, seasoned collaborators groomed by Gardiner, have excellence etched into their bones. However rather less so in these concert events: Sousa stored time and formed phrasing, however solely respectably, with unwieldy steadiness and timidity that verged on the genteel. It felt, at instances, simpler to be impressed by the music than by the efficiency of it.

A part of the problem is that these musicians have set an extremely excessive bar for themselves — a bar that the soloists, drawn from the choir and orchestra, nonetheless met. The soprano Hilary Cronin sang with a wealthy physique and luminous purity, and at one level wove Italianate class with the mezzo-soprano Sarah Denbee within the Bach’s “Christie eleison.” Within the Handel, Cronin introduced the same radiance to “There held in holy ardour” and a tender glow to “However oh, unhappy Virgin.”

In its dialogue between violin and vocalist, that aria is a cousin of “Candy fowl” in “L’Allegro,” a showcase for singer and flute. There, and all through Thursday’s efficiency, the soprano Samantha Clarke was a font of grace, luxuriating within the music’s magnificence with restful endurance.

The countertenor Reginald Mobley sang within the Mass with direct but plush articulation, culminating in a weighty and enchanting Agnus Dei aria. An analogous full sound emerged within the too few solos for the bass-baritone Alex Ashworth, who was buttery within the Bach and commanding in his Eleventh-hour entrance as Moderato within the Handel.

Though the strings often overshadowed the fragile winds — and the singers, too — people demonstrated the nuance that the English Baroque Soloists are able to: Anneke Scott, who masterfully tamed her temperamental interval horn; Michael Niesemann, whose oboe felt like a lyrical extension of the human voice; Rachel Beckett, who achieved a lot the identical on her flute, whereas additionally evoking the pure world in “Candy fowl.” On each nights, the violinist Kati Debretzeni was nimble, solemn one minute and rustic the following.

It have to be tough to guide these gamers in Gardiner’s shadow, however provided that Sousa takes absolute command of the orchestra and choir — as their maestro does, to extra — will he be capable to draw out their superlative ability. To achieve the type of taking part in that leads us, as Gardiner wrote of the Mass in B minor, to “understand that Bach’s remaining prayer for peace, ‘Dona nobis pacem,’ is each an invocation and a convincing affirmation of its immanence.”