Haydn Soars, Beethoven Sinks At Concert Artists

April 22, 1997|By David Donovan | David Donovan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Concert Artists of Baltimore sketched the rapid musical evolution of the early 19th century in two masterworks Saturday evening.

The concert of music by Haydn and Beethoven, led by conductor Edward Polochick at Le Clerc Hall at the College of Notre Dame, was the last in the group's 10th season.

The Haydn "Harmonie" Mass of 1802 and the Beethoven "Emperor" Concerto of 1809 are light-years apart stylistically, despite the seven-year gap between compositions. Haydn created his mass near the end of his life, writing it in the popular style of his "London" symphonies, with clear harmonies and solid musical structures. Beet-hoven's "Emperor" dates from his fecund middle period, when he was breaking down musical barriers with his symphonies 5 through 8 and the string quartets opus 74 and 95.

On Saturday, only the Haydn received a worthy performance. The "Harmonie" Mass was a complete joy, and everything worked under Polochick's loving baton. The opening Kyrie had the perfect blend of grandeur and gladness that permeates the score. Each succeeding movement unfolded naturally, and the momentum pushed to the final bars with a clarity in the tradition of conductor Thomas Beecham.

The chorus did its usual superb job. With clear diction, the singers negotiated the contrapuntal intricacies of Haydn's music with ease.

The soloists taken from the Concert Artists' own ranks were also first-rate. Particularly effective was soprano Ah Hong, with sensitive singing in the "Et incarnatus est." Mezzo-soprano Victoria Lee Miller and tenor Jos Milton were also in great voice throughout. Bass James Dobson was generally fine, but sometimes his vocal powers did not equal those of his colleagues.

Haydn demands quite a bit of his orchestra in this work. The nickname "Harmonie" comes from German, meaning music for wind instruments. He uses a full woodwind section of one flute and pairs of oboes, clarinets and bassoons, with prominent solos throughout the mass. Although all the Concert Artists gave the music style and flavor, most notable were principal oboist Vladimir Lande and principal bassoonist Douglas Kehlenbrink.

The hyperactive string parts that are trademark Haydn were also handled with flair by the entire string body. Both first and second violins were strong, and the lower strings were equally agile. It would be interesting to hear what this fine group could do with some of Haydn's lesser-known early symphonies.

Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto had none of the elegance and fire of the Haydn. Pianist Eric Conway missed fistfuls of notes and musical opportunities. His limited musical spectrum rarely dipped below mezzo-forte, hampering the quiet passages and making the heaven-storming fortissimo statement of this concerto seem less powerful and less convincing.

Pub Date: 4/22/97

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