Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Luminaria - All-Mozart - 10/31/21

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Church Sonata in D Major, K.144 
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Church Sonata in F Major, K. 244 
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Church Sonata in D Major, K. 245 
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Requiem in D Minor, K. 626 
Orchestra Sinfonica Città di Roma 
Conductor: Alfonso Todisco 
Coro Radix Harmonica 
Artistic Director: Giuseppe Pecce
Ferruccio Finetti: Bass 
Natalia Pavlova: Soprano 
Maria Arcangela Tenace: Mezzo-soprano 
Raffaele Tassone: Tenor 

As my relentless search for live classical music in Rome is slowly but surely starting to bear some fruit, I have to tip my hat (or should it be my galea?) off to the Episcopal Chiesa di San Paolo dentro le Mura, also known as St. Paul’s within the Walls or the American Church in Rome, which also happens to be the first Protestant church to be built in Rome, for its Sunday evening series Luminaria, whose mission is to present popular classical music works performed by candlelight. 
Truth be told, the few candles standing outside the aisles last Sunday evening did not make a big difference in the already beautifully lit space, whose stunning mosaics and polychrome brick-and-stone design were a definitely unusual, yet genuinely engaging, feast for the eyes. But then again, the church being as young as the unified country of Italy itself, it should come as no surprise that it (prettily) distinguishes itself from most of the other places of worship in the city. 
The program that had caught my attention was Mozart’s magnificent Requiem, a work that I simply cannot stay away from, no matter how many times I’ve heard it before. Apparently, a lot of people could not either as the sizable space was eventually overflowing with extra chairs to keep up with the demand. Because, after all, there’s just nothing like wrapping up the weekend before All Saints’Day with a timeless mass for the dead being performed under a splendid mosaic of the Tree of Life in the Eternal City. 

As I was handed the program, I was happily surprised to see that we would start with three bonus tracks in the form of three short, but unsurprisingly all-around delightful, church sonatas by Mozart too. Even better, they not only provided me with the opportunity to get into a Mozartian mood (not that it is such a tall order), but also to find out with immense relief that the venue’s acoustics were pretty decent, at least from my premium spot. 
And then came the man’s ultimate masterpiece, which, although he did not get to finish it himself, never fails to display an extraordinary degree of maturity, coherence, and enduring emotional weight. Hearing it again after almost two years of global upheaval that has led to the new world we all live in now was both exciting and eerie; it clearly showed why classics will survive just about anything, and why we need them so badly as comfort food for the soul while we struggle through unpredictable and irrevocable changes. 
From the haunting first notes of Introitus to the heavenly conclusion of Lux Aeterna, the Orchestra Sinfonica Città di Roma and the Coro Radix Harmonica gave a solid reading of the always eventful 50-minute journey under the vibrant baton of the young maestro Alfonso Todisco. And if the overall intensity of the endeavor occasionally made the many moving parts sound like they were not always quite in perfect sync, those very few glitches were in fine too inconspicuous to really matter. Even the blaring sounds of extra security vehicles on via Nazionale (Evidently the G20 bigwigs couldn’t be bothered to finish in time to let us enjoy our concert in peace) were all taken in stride. 
Not to be outdone by the main forces there, the four soloists handled their parts with plenty of commitment and poise too, especially bass Ferruccio Finetti and tenor Raffaele Tassone, whose singing was impressively clear, bright and powerful. As for the ladies, soprano Natalia Pavlova and mezzo-soprano Maria Arcangela Tenace had unquestionably lovely voices that brought glistening touches of pure beauty to the whole experience. 

Some members of the rapt audience burst into applause as soon as the last notes were reached, depriving the rest of us of those precious few suspended seconds necessary to make the switch back to reality, but then again, such is life. 
At least we were treated to another explosive Dies Irae by orchestra and chorus, and I ended my evening enjoying not one, but two gelati (Hey, my walk home was over one hour and I hadn’t had any dinner), as well as a few cross-generational Halloween-themed sightings, as I was making my merry way through the flood-lit, boisterous city.

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