ASO, Chorale's Mozart Requiem is disappointing Collaboration has mixed results

November 13, 1992|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing writer

Last weekend's concerts by the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra marked Gisele Ben-Dor's initial foray into the choral repertoire since her ascension to the ASO post last season.

Mozart's valedictory work, the problematic Requiem, was performed, along with arias from two of his greatest operas, "The Marriage of Figaro" and "The Magic Flute." Ernest Green's Annapolis Chorale was on hand to collaborate in the Requiem.Rounding out the program was "Musica Celestis," a contemporary work for string orchestra by Aaron Kernis.

Ms. Ben-Dor presided over a vigorous Mozart Requiem that, though well played and reasonably well sung, yielded fewer goose bumps than it might have.

There were many splendid moments: a fiercely dramatic "Dies Irae", a beautiful "Recordare", and an expansive, deeply felt "Agnus Dei" among them.

But elsewhere, a fair amount of liturgical drama failed to materialize. The "Domine Jesu" came off sounding frantic, while the "Hostias" zipped by too quickly to radiate its other-worldly warmth. One wondered if the participants had an early bus to catch.

The drama of the Kyrie/Cum Sanctus fugue was expressed rather breathlessly, and the shimmering magic of "Huic ergo" in the "Lacrimosa" was sacrificed to bumpy articulation that made no musical sense to me whatsoever.

The Chorale let Ms. Ben-Dor down on Friday evening with some iffy intonation (the sopranos at "Luceat" in the Introit -- ouch!) and an uninspired "Rex tremendae."

Ben Dor's soloists were exemplary, save for the soprano who sang vapidly and had trouble counting to four in the "Tuba mirum" and to eight in the "Lux aeterna."

Some of the best orchestral playing of the Ben-Dor regime

accompanied mezzo-soprano Christina Alves and baritone Robert Kennedy in the opera excerpts. Mozart's robust good humor was conveyed by superior wind playing and the conductor's admirable sense of line. Brava!

Ms. Alves was a charmer in her arias, while Mr. Kennedy scored as a very funny Papageno from "The Magic Flute."

Alas, the lyric baritone was overmatched by Mozart's demands in the "Figaro" arias. His voice sounded disconcertingly small.

Kernis' piece is a beautiful one. The ASO players conveyed his sense of medieval mysticism despite the work's knotty technical problems, which are 20th century throughout.

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