The Miami Herald gave a glowing review of “The Hope of Loving” commissioned by Seraphic Fire. The world premiere performance was “taught and moving” and “bears repeated hearings.”
Classical review: Seraphic Fire excels in Schubert, new work
Seraphic Fire’s season-opening program Wednesday night at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Miami was a straightforward affair, made up primarily of music by 19th century German and Austrian composers. The one detour off the historical path was the world premiere of a work commissioned by the Miami-based choir.
Wednesday’s concert did not draw a full house, but the remaining three performances of this program richly deserve to — not only to hear Seraphic Fire singing one of the most accessible and pleasing Schubert pieces in the choral repertoire but also to hear 29-year-old Jake Runestad’s taut and moving The Hope of Loving.
The Minnesota-based Runestad has had his work performed by Seraphic Fire before. When the composer told the Miami audience Wednesday that his new cantata was “all about love, which might seem trite,” that trap indeed seemed possible, with sections titled “Yield to Love” and “My Soul is a Candle.”
Runestad steered well clear of that pitfall. The Hope of Loving spans six sections with texts taken from Love Poems From God. The collection of mystical writing edited by Daniel Ladinsky covers well-trodden ground, but Runestad’s music does not.
It is hard to pigeonhole Runestad’s style. At times it is tonal and Romantic, infused with lyrical passages. Other sections suggest John Adams in the driving, rhythmic scherzos.
Yet Runestad writes with a light hand, opening the first section, “Yield To Love,” with a brief string adagio before the female voices enter to gorgeous effect.
Under the direction of Quigley and backed by a string quintet from The Sebastians, Seraphic Fire gave rich advocacy to Runestad’s work. Solo turns by bass James Bass, tenor Patrick Muehleise and soprano Sarah Moyer were not only beautifully executed but rendered with moving restraint. Especially effective is the finale, which closes atmospherically with the chorus humming over a solo violin. Runestad’s sense of pace and balance makes The Hope of Loving a work that bears repeated hearings.