Green, Annapolis Chorale pepper Faure's `Requiem' with heavenly moments

Review

November 15, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When musicians climb inside the expressive core of a piece and truly make it their own, a magical effect is created for all who hear them.

The Germans call this intense emotional connection innigkeit, and I thought about the phenomenon as I listened to J. Ernest Green's Annapolis Chorale sing the luminous Requiem of Gabriel Faure and Franz Schubert's Mass in G at Maryland Hall on Saturday night.

When that inner connection with the music was established, there was no mistaking it.

Faure's "In paradisum," the radiant depiction of blessed souls reaching their heavenly destination, couldn't have been lovelier. The music unfolded naturally. Harmonies shimmered, the repeated organ figure was graceful to a fault and the sopranos' delicate crescendo into the closing line, Eternam habeas requiem,brought goose bumps.

The audience felt it too, reacting to this final portion of the piece with reverent silence before beginning to applaud.

There was innigkeit at other junctures as well.

When the full chorale joined baritone Shouvik Mondle for a dark, intense reprise of the Faure work's "Libera me" melody, the interlude really clicked. Deft conducting from Green helped elicit a moving "Pie Jesu" from soprano soloist Mary Anne Barcellona, who was especially gorgeous in the crescendo leading to her final imprecation for eternal rest.

So why did other potentially golden moments just happen by, shorn of that all-important sense of inner connection?

Why rush the tenor section through the Kyrie eleison lines as though everyone had a bus to catch? The sopranos proved they could sound like angels in the "In paradisum." Where were those cherubs and seraphs in the celestial Te decet hymnus of the "Kyrie"?

Why should choppy phrasing keep the "Agnus Dei" theme so earthbound, especially when it modulates with such heart-stopping beauty into the key of D major at the end of the movement?

The singers set such a lofty standard for themselves on the innigkeit scale, in short, that when they detached and turned on the autopilot, there was no mistaking their lack of connection.

Green and company produced a warm, handsome sound in the Schubert Mass. One might have wished for more sparkle in the "Credo," which sounded a little runny, but bravo to all for such a warm, affectionate approach.

But what inconsistency we heard from the baritone soloist. How could a fellow sound so stylish in the "Gloria," then blunder into the "Benedictus" nearly a quarter-tone sharp with a scoop that would dwarf a jumbo serving at Ben & Jerry's?

A far more astute soloist was keyboard artist Larry Molinaro, who combined baroque flair with 20th-century Gallic charm in Francis Poulenc's Organ Concerto.

And as Green coaxed a lyrical sheen out of his strings in the opening orchestral "Tutti," it was hard not to sigh with contentment.

Innigkeit yet again.

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