Cathedral set charming but lightweight

April 11, 1995|By David Donovan | David Donovan,Special to The Sun

The Choirs of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, accompanied by a superb orchestra under the direction of Robert Twynham, Sunday evening offered two exemplary performances in the cathedral's monumental setting. That said, this listener was impressed but not moved.

The bulk of the program was taken by John Rutter's "Requiem." The program noted that there are numerous setting for the "Requiems" from Mozart, Verdi, Berlioz, Faure and Durufle. What those pieces have in common is that each is touched with genius. Mr. Rutter is skilled at getting great sound from choirs, but his bag of musical tricks is limited. The effect is charming but totally lacking in musical weight.

The performance, however, was first-class. The choir had a beautiful blend, and the boys chorus was pure and focused at all times.

Cellist Bonnie Thron was eloquent in her solo in the second movement. The liveliness of the hall tended to muddy the beautiful sound, but Ms. Thron played with real commitment and feeling.

Soprano soloist Paula McCabe showed that she is at home in the cathedral, and she used the vast space to her advantage. The tone was sweet and the highest notes simply floated with no hint of strain.

The oboe solo in the sixth movement was also noteworthy. Amy Homes gave the part a true pastoral feel, and her orchestra supported her with grace and sensitivity.

Mr. Twynham, music director at the cathedral, is a no-nonsense conductor. His direction was clear and his communication with the choir almost telepathic.

Mr. Twynham's composition, "Choral Fantasy on 'Crimond,' " was a blessing after the plain vanilla Rutter. It was wonderful to hear some dissonance, and the piece had many wonderful moments and a very moving orchestral coda. When the orchestration got a little dense, however, the hall blurred the sound into a mush. The choir kept up its standards, but baritone soloist Paul Stumpf was just barely audible. Still, the overall execution by Mr. Twynham and his forces was superb.

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