Mozart’s Requiem enlivened the spirit and dazzled the ear

Mozart’s Requiem, Orchestra London, March 8, 2014, Centennial Hall

“Celebrating Mozart” is the over-arching theme of the 2013-14 Orchestra London season. Over the course of several months, the orchestra has surveyed a wide array of the master’s great works. On March 8, the Orchestra devoted an entire evening to two major pieces from the composer’s final years – the Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551 (“Jupiter”) and the Requiem Mass in D minor, K. 626. As ever, a night in the company of Mozart enlivens the spirit, dazzles the ear and touches the heart. One does not ask meaning of life questions when listening to the music of Mozart, but one recognizes the mysterious conjunction of the heavenly and the homely in Mozart’s perfect artistry, and that is enough.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) completed his final three symphonies in the space of six weeks during the summer of 1788. These works are the apogee of his orchestral ventures, each a refined jewel. The Jupiter is stately, positive and complex. It opens with a brisk, direct statement that receives an immediate lyrical reply. Fanfares alternate with little electrical jolts; there is also a reference to a song Mozart composed, also in 1788, “Un bacio di mano” (“a kiss on her hand”), a light touch between the dramatic elements. The second movement Andante Cantabile presents emotional tension, some angst, some tenderness. The third movement Menuetto is dancelike, but inflected with chromaticisms that slightly roil the waters. And then, there is the most remarkable Finale, in which, as Sir George Grove wrote, “Mozart has reserved all the resources of his science, and all the power, which no one seems to have possessed to the same degree with himself, of concealing that science, and making it the vehicle for music as pleasing as it is learned. Nowhere has he achieved more.” This movement is the creation of a magician whose intuition and tuition permitted him set out with clarity several themes, organizing them in layers of counterpoint, interactive and separated by turn.

Maestro Alain Trudel allowed each voice within the orchestra to have its say, while keeping the texture interesting.

The brilliance of Mozart’s concept is rendered apparent only in the hands of expert performers. Maestro Alain Trudel allowed each voice within the orchestra to have its say, while keeping the texture interesting. The coordination and precision could only have been achieved through great cooperative efforts of conductor and orchestra members.

In spite of the controversies surrounding the true history of the composition of the Requiem Mass in D minor Op. 626, or perhaps because of the uncertainty, this piece of music remains a beloved artifact from Mozart’s catalogue of works. Mozart completed the “Introitus: Requiem aeternam”; Mozart completed the vocal parts and continuo for the “Kyrie” and “Sequentia.” From this point onward, other hands, most notably those of Franz Xaver Süssmayr, were involved in the completion of this last composition of Mozart. Whatever the facts are, the Requiem is significant as a late eighteenth century musical document.

Here, as in the “Jupiter,” effective leadership is the key to an outstanding performance. Alain Trudel kept a fine balance among the various forces required called upon – the Amabile Chamber Choir, under the direction of Carol Beynon and Brenda Zadorsky was robust and intensely committed to fulfilling their role; the four soloists, Frédérique Vézina, soprano, Sophie Louise Roland, mezzo-soprano, Isaiah Bell, tenor, and Theodore Baerg, bass, performed with the warmth and devotion called for in the score. The orchestra was majestic in its embrace of the music. The winds and brass sections were forces of nature, bringing out an assortment of colors; the strings, under Joseph Lanza’s obvious enthusiasm, as he positively danced in his seat, rounded out the drama.

(Out of 4 Stars)

Renée Silberman is an essayist on topics of musical interest who has authored program notes for performances in concert halls in Canada and the U.S. She is the founder of the Serenata Music Series.