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Mostly Mozart Festival: Caldara, Gluck and Mozart. Soloists / The Sixteen / The Symphony of Harmony and Invention / Harry Christophers (conductor). Barbican Hall, London.  27.07.2006 (ED)

 

Caldara Crucifixus
Gluck Orfeo, Act II Scene 1 (complete) and Ballo, Che  puro ciel and Chorus from Act II Scene 2
Mozart Venite populi
Mozart Mass in C minor

Sally Matthews, soprano
Sarah Connolly, mezzo soprano
Matthew Beale, tenor
Jonathan Arnold, bass

 

This concert in the Barbican’s Mostly Mozart Festival focussed on Mozart in Vienna. Caldara and Gluck served to set the scene and give Wolfgang’s two works some context.

 

Caldara’s Crucifixus is a gift for The Sixteen: intricate of design, complex of inner structure, yet in performance it needs the appearance of simplicity. Assigning a single voice to each of the 16 parts over a chamber organ accompaniment, the work was intimate despite its scale. Most notable in the composition itself was the sense of unity of vocal handling and expression that Caldara aimed at, something Mozart would radically depart from.

 

The extracts from Gluck’s Orfeo emphasised the nature of stage drama as conveyed through opera when performed with energy and zest. As would become apparent later in the programme, these were elements that influenced Mozart’s writing of church music. Sarah Connolly sang firmly, if at times a little under-powered to fully compete with the orchestra and chorus. Harry Christophers directed with his typically no-nonsense approach.

 

 Mozart’s Venite populi showed to a certain extent the influence of Caldara in the unity of handling that the material was subject to, but altogether larger in scale and ambition was the Mass in C minor. In this work Mozart left his mark on the direction of Viennese church choral writing forever, as he imbued the parts with individuality unlike any composer before him. Christophers’ performance left no dynamic emphasis unemphasised or nuance of textural colouring unexplored. Not for nothing is The Sixteen’s orchestra aptly named The Symphony of Harmony and Invention one felt, if their performances are always this investigative in nature. Surprisingly for the near operatic nature of the solo soprano parts Sally Matthews and Sarah Connolly gave them with simplicity of emotion, although always careful with the music itself. Their voices contrasted well with each other, Matthews’ bright soprano perhaps more willing to catch the limelight, but Connolly hardly less incisive. The rather smaller men’s parts were contributed with confidence by Matthew Beale and Jonathan Arnold. All in all this was as uplifting and invigorating account of Mozart’s great unfinished Mass as one might wish to hear.

 

 

Evan Dickerson


 



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)