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The Great Mass - a Ballet by Uwe Scholz.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Mass in C minor, K427/K417a, 'Great Mass' (1782/83) [56'25]; Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K546 (1788) [10'03]; Ave verum corpus in D, K618 (1791) [4'14]

Gregorian Chant: Gaudeamus omnes; Credo in unum Deum (Mass for the Feast of St Thomas of Canterbury) [3'54].
Thomas JAHN (b. 1940)

Orte und Zeiten No. 2, Zeit und Zeiten [2'41]; Interludium: Viele Länder durchfuhr ich [5'04].
Gyorgy KURTÁG (b. 1926)

Flowers we are, mere flowers [1'01]. Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV687 (Bach, arr. Kurtag) [5'23]; Play with overtones [0'50]; ... and once more: Flower we are ... [0'40]; Beating Quarreling [1'04]; Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV106 (Bach, arr. Kurtag) [2'20]; Furious Chorale [0'50]; Palm Stroke [0'32]; Aus der Ferne [2'12].
Arvo PÄRT (b. 1935)

Credo (1968) [12'39].
Leipzig Ballet; Eunyee You, Marie-Claude Chappuis (sopranos); Werner Güra (tenor); Friedemann Röhlig (bass);
Chorus of the Leipzig Opera; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Balázs Kocsár.
Includes readings of Paul Celan.
Rec. live at Leipzig Opera on June 28th, 2005.
Director Hans Hulscher. Producers Günter Attein and Paul Smaczny.
NTSC. 16:9. PCM Stereo. Dolby Digital 5.1. DTS 5.1. Region Code: 0. DVD 9.
EUROARTS 2054608 [130'00]

A fascinating experience, commemorating the work of Uwe Scholz (1958-2004). Klaus Gietel's helpful introduction in the booklet tells us that 'Scholz was one of the few choreographers able to handle large ensembles'. Certainly the visual spectacle we are treated to leaves no doubt at all of that statement. Yet there are also moments of great introspection, of moving silences. This ballet is not short, but is it mesmerising, especially when one is confronted by the sheer expertise of the Leipzig Ballet's members.

Gregorian Chant is an imaginative way to begin. The Mozart Mass is given a big performance, one that pulls no punches just as Scholz doesn't. His responses to the music work in broad brush-strokes, whole lines of dancers working as one in grand choral statements. Solo dancers represent solo voices - try the 'Christe', where the solo soprano's image is juxtaposed over the dancing. As the solo voice finishes, the dancer rejoins the group. Similarly, after the initial blaze of sound for the 'Gloria', as each choral line (SATB) sings, so different lines of dancers onstage react and interweave. A similar technique although with four couples is used for the Adagio and Fugue. The 'Laudamus te' is another solo one that leaves this reviewer wondering just how the dancer keeps her leg up at that angle for that long?

Space is always used to maximum impact. As is musical contrast - from Mozart's large edifice to a 'set' of Kurtág and Bach via a short section of modernist music by Jahn. The Jahn piece invokes the ethereal and often breathy sound of a shakuhachi. The Bach emerges beautifully, the dark set highlighting the intimacy of it all. Kurtág's famous sense of humour is in evidence, too, mirrored in some of the stage actions.

Musically, the solo singing of the 'Et incarnatus est' is a highlight (Eunyee You). Again, contrast highlights Arvo Pärt's 1968. Beginning with silhouettes of dancers lined up at the back of the stage, a blazing 'Credo' suddenly turns the lights red. The raw edge to some of the composer's harmonies is explicitly mirrored in the lighting. Wonderful.

If the performance of the 'Sanctus' of the C minor Mass sags a little, it is a shame, but it is not enough to detract from the monumental feel of this whole event. Massively thought-provoking, no greater tribute to Uwe Scholz could be envisaged.

Colin Clarke



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