Looking at the list of composers whose works will be performed at this concert, I find myself wondering whether the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park is competing for the ever-elusive attention of that unicorn of the arts world, the Younger Audience. True, the Bach Festival is best-known for presenting sacred Baroque choral music, and at one of their performances you're more likely to be shushed than offered craft-beer recommendations; still, I can't help but wonder if they are targeting a greener, perhaps longer-haired demographic with their Modern Masterworks concert this weekend in the Knowles Memorial Chapel at Rollins College. The underlying theme of the program is light – tell me that's not the type of programming decision that would be made in a dorm room.
Structural conceits aside, this is one of the most appealing classical programs Central Florida has seen in the last decade. In an off-the-cuff video on the Bach Festival's website, artistic director John Sinclair admits that the program is daring for a group that "specializes in dead Western European men."
Sinclair has chosen VW-bus-owning, remote-island-inhabiting ur-hipster Morten Lauridsen and his sprawling, emotionally rich Lux Aeterna as the centerpiece of a program of six works by six different composers, all of whom are alive and three of whom – Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Moravec, Guggenheim fellow Stephen Paulus and clean-cut rising star Chris Rogerson – will be in attendance at Rollins to give a pre-concert chat before each performance.
Sinclair says that one of his guiding principles in selecting music for this program was "to pick what I would consider the best of the living composers, and the best music that's going to transcend time." While I would agree that Arvo Pärt (the beloved-by-Björk Estonian composer whose hyper-emotional Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten is featured) deserves that distinction, I think it's a bit of a stretch to say that the rest of these composers – mostly the descendants of those aforementioned dead Western European men – are better than, say, Sofia Gubaidulina, whose The Light of the End would make quite a contrast with Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna. She's also a living composer, and might have even further stretched the appeal of this concert to a new generation of listeners.
But don't let my armchair feminism dissuade you from going to this concert. Eric Whitacre's Lux Aurumque is a short but skillfully written choral piece built on beautifully nuanced harmonies and vocal orchestration; Pärt's cathartic Cantus for string orchestra and bell is one of the pieces that solidified his international reputation; and Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna is truly a work worth repeated listening, maybe for generations to come.
Bach Festival Society Presents: Modern Masterworks
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Knowles Memorial Chapel
6:15 p.m. Saturday; 1:45 p.m. Sunday
Room 119, Music Building
1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park