'Creation Mass' is heaven-sent

MUSIC REVIEW

November 04, 1991|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

For many listeners, the existence of Haydn's Masses is their only consolation for the unhappy circumstance of Mozart's early death. The younger composer did not live long enough to produce any operas after "The Magic Flute," but such episodes as the tenor and baritone duet in the "Et Incarnatus Est" of Haydn's "Creation Mass" approach the Mozartean empyrean.

Those listeners were made both happy and sad yesterday by the fact that the Baltimore Choral Arts Society and its music director, Tom Hall, performed the "Creation Mass" -- which is not to be confused with the composer's better known, English-style oratorio, "The Creation" -- in Kraushaar Auditorium on the Goucher College campus. Happy to hear such great music so well-performed; sad that Hall has completed his six-year project of performing all six of these pieces that Haydn wrote toward the end of his life.

The performance was typical of Hall's performances in that there was nothing churchy about it. The music was well-paced, there was an appropriate sense of grandeur, the accompaniment of the singers was sensitive, and the coordination of choral and orchestral forces was well-judged enough so that inner detail was rarely lost.

The playing of the orchestra and the singing of the chorus were unexceptionable, as were the four soloists: mezzo-soprano Pamela Dellal, tenor Stanley Cornett, baritone Andrew Wentzel and soprano Lorna Haywood. These same forces -- with a smaller complement of instrumentalists -- did equally well with Mozart's "Vesperae de Dominica" (K. 321), which occupied the first half of the program.

The "Vespers" is a peculiar work. As Hall observed in a fine program note, it cannot have been a work that Mozart enjoyed writing: It was composed for his detested employer, the Archbishop of Salzburg, near the end of Mozart's sojourn in that city. And for a good part part of the time Mozart seems like he's merely spinning notes, albeit on a very high level.

But there are moments in this music that hit with the force that only the best -- and only -- Mozart does. This was especially true in the penultimate "Laudate Dominum," in which the composer -- in the high-flying coloratura passages for the soprano and the perky, flute-like accompaniment of the organ -- seemed to be looking forward to "The Magic Flute." Haywood sang this difficult music excitingly and with a real sense of the music's style.

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