Sunday, October 30, 2011

American Classical Orchestra - Mozart - 10/29/11

Conductor: Thomas Crawford
Mozart: Symphony No 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543
Mozart: Requiem, K. 626 – The Choirs of Trinity Church on the Green, New Haven, CT – The Choir of Trinity Episcopal Church, Princeton, NJ – Maeve Hoglund – Abigail Fischer – Rufus Muller – Christopher Devage

As my friend Nicole so rightly put it, for some unknown reason Mother Nature seems determined to ruin our enjoyment of Mozart’s Requiem. After unleashing Irene on the day we were supposed to attend a performance of it last summer at the closing night of the Mostly Mozart Festival, which was consequently cancelled, she rudely dumped a nasty winter storm on the city all day and all night yesterday, turning what should have been a leisurely evening outing into a cold, windy, wet and slippery ordeal. This time, however, the concert was still on and there was no way we were going to miss it, come hell or high water or whatever. So we eventually made it to the historic Methodist Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew on the Upper West Side, gloriously basking in our complete victory against Nature's adversity for a moment, before nervously wondering what will be in store for us when we go listen to the same Requiem at Carnegie Hall in the spring.

Our resilience was actually rewarded with not only the Requiem, but also Mozart’s Symphony No 39, one of his most immediately attractive works, in the first part of the program. The American Classical Orchestra, a local orchestra specializing in the repertoire of the 17th and 18th centuries, quickly proved to be a talented ensemble whose precise, refined sound is ideally suited for Mozart. Although the opening resonated with pompous grandeur, the Adagio stood out because of the intensely sweeping passages for the strings. The Andante with moto bristled with gripping poignancy, the Menuetto exuded stately elegance and the Finale explodes with unfussy but sunny exuberance. The space was devoid of any fancy ornaments yet welcoming, and the acoustics turned out to be totally acceptable. So far, so good.
Then, at last, it was time for the Requiem, and I'm happy to report that it was well worth the wait. The nicest touch of the whole set-up was probably the young children in the choirs trying not to be distracted by their anxious parents in the audience. Seeing them sing their hearts out during the "Dies irae" made me briefly wonder how much of the Day of Wrath concept they were actually getting, but it did not matter. The singing from all parties involved was excellent and the orchestra delivered a powerful, warmly expressive performance of Mozart’s unfinished masterpiece. Once the applause had subsided, we were able to leave with the good feeling that our mission had been belatedly but masterfully accomplished.

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