Alan Rich
May 10, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Spirituals in Concert

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
performer
Kathleen Battle, James Levine, Jessye Norman
genre
Classical

We gave it a B+

No indigenous idiom has found a more secure place on the American concert scene than spirituals. Composers and arrangers have sometimes inflated them far beyond their plangent simplicity, yet the music survives. It survived in triumph one night in March 1990 on the Carnegie Hall stage, as two of opera’s most luminous stars sang the music with a pride that leaps off the record, hurtles past cornball choral and orchestral biz, and simply pins you against the wall with its emotional power, all recorded in Spirituals in Concert. Now and then Kathleen Battle drops out of character and becomes the Mozartian comic heroine she portrays so well. But Jessye Norman is inflamed from within by this music, and when she curls that dark torrent of a voice around the harrowing lines of ”Sinner, Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass,” over no orchestral support other than the inexorable throb of the drums, you may be pardoned for forgetting to breathe. B+

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