A 'Requiem' is born to musical marriage ASO joins Chorale for Mozart work ANNE ARUNDEL DIVERSIONS

November 06, 1992|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

It's been an autumn of wedding bells in the Anne Arundel arts community.

First came the union between Dick Gessner's Broadway Corner and T. G. Cooper's Pamoja ensemble.

The result was a delightful "Dreamgirls" over at Gessner's U.S. 50 nightclub.

Now, the county's two premier classical music organizations, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Annapolis Chorale, are about to tie the knot with a pair of weekend concerts featuring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's valedictory work, the "Requiem."

"It's always important to do collaborations like this one," explains ASO conductor Gisele Ben-Dor, "because so much excitement is added to the local arts scene, especially when the chorus is as attentive and well-prepared as this one. In fact, I'd like to make this an annual event."

Although Ms. Ben-Dor will conduct the Maryland Hall concerts, bTC chorale conductor Ernest Green played an integral role at Wednesday evening's rehearsal, listening and offering advice.

His colleague frequently turned to him to check the all-important balance between singers and players.

"We need brighter vowels here," he called to his tenors and basses. "Otherwise, the sound just won't cut through."

The opportunity to conduct the crown jewel of the choral repertoire delights Ms. Ben-Dor, the former associate conductor of the Houston Symphony now in her first full season at the ASO helm.

"In Houston, I begged for a chance to do 'Messiah' or a Mozart 'Requiem,' but it never came my way. I'm thrilled we're doing Mozart. I'm out of my mind we're doing it!"

Later this season, the conductor will have her long-awaited chance, when she conducts Handel's "Messiah" with the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra of Ithaca, N.Y.

With the "Requiem," the Annapolis audience will encounter one of the most extraordinary, yet problematic works of the Mozart canon.

The composer died with only a fraction of the work completed and much of it sketched out in musical shorthand.

To this day, musicologists debate how much is Mozart and how much is Franz Xaver Sussmayr, the assistant the master tapped to finish the work.

Many versions have been constructed by musicologists seeking to purge Mozart of Sussmayr's earthbound influence.

Ms. Ben-Dor, who will use the standard Sussmayr edition, acknowledges the great riddle.

"It's always a mystery," she said with a laugh. "It's such great music, but at the same time you sometimes can't help wondering who really wrote the darned thing."

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