Mozart's Requiem suits season, but Pinnock inspires doubts

January 25, 1991|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's decision to bring Trevor Pinnock here to conduct Mozart's Requiem -- which he did last night in Meyerhoff Hall -- was made two years ago. It was a logical choice: Pinnock is a celebrated interpreter of 18th-century works, and the Requim is one of the greates of them.

It was also a fortunate choice for what has turned out to be a most unfortunate time, when many young men and women in arms and many innocent civilians face death.

The text of the Requiem encourages us to throw ourselves upon God's mercy, and we need it now more than at any time in the recent past.

We also need Mozart's music: The Requiem Mass may have been set more powerfully by other composers -- Verdi especially -- but never more yearningly beautifully than by Mozart.

Pinnock's performance was good -- although better in such dramatic portions of the text as the "Rex Tremendae" than in such tender and lyrical ones as the "Lacrimosa."

The work of the Baltimore Symphony Chorus was solid, and the soloists -- soprano Hei-Kyung Hong, mezzo Catherine Robbin, tenor Michael Schade and bass Alastair Miles -- were well matched.

But even though a performance by Pinnock, the orchestra and the chorus of of Mozart's short motet, "Ave Verum Corpus," was superb, the concert still left this listener with serious doubts about Pinnock.

There is a big difference between being able to produce brilliant records of Baroque repertory with specialist ensembles and giving a concert with a modern orchestra.

Pinnock's performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 was fraught with enough errors to evoke the suspicion that some of the superstars of the authenticity-in-music movement are little more than gifted amateurs when it comes to leading an orchestra.

Pinnock was at his best in the fast opening and closing movements of the G Minor Symphony.

In the slower middle movements (particularly the andante), hdid little more than beat time -- and not very well at that. The phrases never seemed to lead into one another, and the music limped from bar to bar.

The conductor must also bear some of the responsibility for the ** dirty wind playing. At times it was hard to believe that these were the same wind players who performed so triumphantly in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 a few weeks ago.

The concert will be repeated tonight.

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