Friday, April 20, 2012

Orchestra of St. Luke's - All-Mozart - 04/12/12

Conductor: Ivan Fischer
Mozart: Symphony No 34 in C Major, K. 338
Mozart: Requiem, K. 626 – Musica Sacra – Dominique Labelle – Kelley O’Connor – Joseph Kaiser – Richard Paul Fink

As this invigorating mini marathon is coming to an end, I couldn’t imagine a more fortunate convergence of fabulous musical forces than Mozart’s extraordinary Requiem performed by the brilliant Orchestra of St. Luke’s under the always inventive baton of Ivan Fischer at Carnegie Hall. I fell in love with the Requiem the very first time I heard it and it has remained one of my all-time favorite works. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s were headlining my very first concert at Carnegie Hall, and Ivan Fischer has always been a wonderful musical mentor through the fun, ground-breaking, puzzling and thrilling endeavors of his I got to attend in Washington, DC, Budapest and New York City. So my friend Nicole and I were more than ready for a memorable evening together.

The evening was memorable, yes, and also not without some unexpected moments along the way. Mozart’s Symphony No 34, however, was not one of them. A lovely composition bristling with its creator’s well-known elegant refinement, it sounded all the better thanks the committed, highly detailed playing of the orchestra. This was a satisfying performance of course, but it did not have this unique element of happy surprise I have come to expect from maestro Fischer.
Things quickly changed with the Requiem though. Watching the stage being reconfigured, we were wondering where the choir would be placed since we could not see any structure anywhere for them to stand on. Then we noticed two small stands behind the orchestra, and sure enough, they were soon occupied by the male choristers of Musica Sacra while the females singers ended up scattered among the musicians. The soloists were on small podiums between orchestra and choristers, and the whole set-up formed quite a peculiar, kind of cosy scene for such a sprawling piece. But when Ivan Fischer is running the show, you know to just go with the flow and enjoy the unusual ride.
And all things considered, this out-of-the-box Requiem was very much enjoyed indeed, especially as the lofty, unified sound he drew from the flawlessly coordinated musicians and choir gave the stunning Mass for the Dead a profoundly human dimension. Toning down the sweeping grandeur and haunting darkness that are traditionally associated with Mozart’s most enigmatic composition, this performance almost felt intimate. A personal highlight on mine, the quintessentially take-no-prisoners Dies Irae may not have been the most hair-raising I’ve ever experienced, but it was still a viscerally powerful Day of Wrath. The soloists all came through beautifully, and this unusual Requiem concluded four incredible evenings with a different, but superb, touch.

Mission accomplished.

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