'Requiem,' alone, would suffice

October 14, 1997|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Please tell me: If you went to a concert that consisted of a serious, intelligent performance of a major work that lasts almost an hour, prefaced by knowledgeable commentary and musical examples, would you feel cheated not to hear anything else?

Would you demand half your money back? Would you insist on having some more music, however tenuously related, to flesh out the program?

No, of course not. Anyone with a grain of gratitude for the chance to pay respect to a great work would accept an unadulterated performance of, say, Mozart's "Requiem," all by itself, with several hosannas and a benedictus.

Too bad Concert Artists of Baltimore couldn't leave well enough alone.

Sunday's performance of the "Requiem" (1791) at the College of Notre Dame was all of the above: serious, intelligent, knowledgeable.

A great choral work, powerfully sung, is like a glimpse of heaven, and the 30-member chorus and similar-size orchestra performed nobly. Conductor Edward Polochick, a busy presence on Baltimore's musical scene, had rehearsed them with care, though his podium gymnastics are a little histrionic for my taste.

He made the customary homage to the composer by pausing after the initial statement of the "Lacrimosa," which are the last notes known to have been written by Mozart before he died at the age of 35. The work was finished by his student, Franz Xaver Sussmayr.

The quartet of soloists was more effective as a quartet than as soloists. The soprano (Ah Hong) had a creamy tone interrupted by neither vowels nor consonants; the alto (Victoria Lee Miller) did not cut through the orchestra; the tenor (Raymond Aparentado) oversang his solos; and the bass (Adam Schulz, a Peabody Conservatory student) had some pitch problems.

To affix Mozart's Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter"), incomparable as it is, to the front of the program is to detract from both works. Despite the program title, "Mozart Finales," the two works have little to do with each other. If one must couple the last symphony with a choral work, why not the F major Mass (1774), which offers the first use of the four-note theme that became the building-block for the complex finale of the "Jupiter"?

Concert Artists of Baltimore offers a season of choral, orchestral and chamber works for voices and instruments. Its next program -- featuring "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme" by Richard Strauss -- is Nov. 8. Call 410-625-3525 for more information.

Pub Date: 10/14/97

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