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BACH AND FORTH
A WELL-KNOWN MASS CELEBRATES A NUMBER OF EVENTS

WHAT: Bach's Mass in B minor, co-presented by the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, guest conducted by J. Reilly Lewis

WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Kleinhans Music Hall

ADMISSION: $9 to $30

INFO: 885-5000 or 447-1927

There is a scene in Harry Kurnitz's 1950s comedy "Reclining Figure," a spoof of art dealers and art collectors, in which a frustrated gallery owner is desperately trying to satisfy the tastes of a very persnickety woman who has successively rejected purchasing a Matisse, a Fantin-Latour and a Dufy. "My God, woman," he says in complete exasperation, "what do you want, the B minor Mass in a frame?"

It's silly, but it's also eloquent testimony to the exalted position that Bach's B minor Mass holds, not only in the world of music, but in the history of Western art. This cornerstone of Western culture will be available for the edification and exaltation of Buffalo listeners on Sunday in a special performance conceived by the chorus' music director, Thomas Swan, as another observation to the 65th and 60th anniversaries, respectively, of the BPO and Kleinhans Music Hall. The orchestra, in turn, views the performance as a tribute to Swan's leadership of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus since he took the reins in 1979.

The B minor Mass was written and assembled over a period of 25 years and completed only two years before Bach's death. Bach's biographer Karl Geiringer describes the B minor Mass as "an abstract composition of monumental dimensions, a gigantic edifice conceived by the composer as the crowning glory of his life-work in the field of sacred music."

Sunday's performance will be conducted by J. Reilly Lewis, music director of the Washington Bach Consort and an internationally recognized Bach specialist. Joining Lewis, the orchestra and chorus as soloists are soprano Janet Obermeyer, mezzo Mary Ann Valaitis, tenor Daniel Clark Smith and baritone Brian Zunner.

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