Second installment of Mostly Mozart 2013 – at least for me. There has been plenty of activity that I have missed, for the petty reasons I mentioned in my review on the Lewis – Rhorer thrilling concert. But, in the half empty, half full perspective, I’m not doing too badly.
Neither are the performers. Again, a conductor I didn’t know – I guess that’s my problem, I’m getting old (343 this year!) and to me Karl Böhm, Claudio Abbado, Kurt Sanderling, Georg Solti, George Szell, Eugene Ormandy, to name only a few, are the familiar names. Zubin Mehta, Daniel Barenboim, Simon Rattle, Valery Gergiev are mere youngsters. So when it comes to Jérémie Rhorer, Gianandrea Noseda, Alan Gilbert and David Afkham, it’s the kindergarten we are talking about. Kindergarten maybe, but all wunderkinder! Who ever said classical music was going out of fashion? To our great jubilation, there are flocks of talented young musicians carrying the torch.
And so was demonstrated this evening, as a surprisingly improved Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra under the direction of yet another seasoned youngster served Beethoven and Rossini with grace, intelligence, precision and sensitivity. Noseda not only led the orchestra with a firm and inspired hand, he also brought out the very best in the chorus and soloists in Rossini’s jewel.
We had heard Beethoven’s First Symphony just a week before in Jérémie Rhorer’s perfectly classical and yet farsighted vision, and now we had Noseda to thank for a polished reading of an already more agitated and Romantic Beethoven score. A few flaws here and there, nevertheless, especially in the solos. The slightly out of focus cellos in particular ruffled my sensitivity.
But it was Rossini I had come for, and was I rewarded! Noseda really outdid himself in this extraordinarily fervent yet operatic work. I went to my Grove to read a little more about it, and in the article devoted to Rossini, Philip Gossett contests the belief that the work is more operatic than religious. In his profound knowledge of Rossini’s works, he argues that: “Rossini’s setting of the Stabat Mater contains almost no music that would normally enter into his operas, whether for reasons of structure, orchestration, melody, use of chorus or a host of other considerations.” I would not dream of disagreeing, but when I perceive the music as operatic, it is the intense dramatic quality I refer to. I am not as familiar with it as I am with Rossini’s other religious masterpiece, the Petite Messe Solennelle, but I of course sensed the very different spirit of the two works, the latter seeming much more intimate and delicate than the former. The Stabat Mater is majestic and at the core of its power is the chorus, with an absolutely magnificent share of the score. The two a cappella sections, Eja mater fons amoris and Quando corpus morietur, are poignant.
In this performance (it seems sacrilegious to speak of performance in the case of this divine music) everything seemed to come together splendidly, and that was most certainly Noseda’s doing, but he probably wouldn’t have succeeded had he not been able to count on particularly inspired performers. The four soloists were excellent, especially, in my perception, the two feminine voices. The tenor and the bass did not seem quite as comfortable with their parts, the tenor occasionally missing a high note and the bass having a slightly muffled delivery, but these slight problems did no major disservice to their rendition. There is no doubt in my mind that the star of the evening was the absolutely superb chorus, the Concert Chorale of New York, extraordinarily well prepared, with an impressive range of dynamics and a stunning cohesion. Ultimately, of course, it is to Rossini that we must pay homage, as did all the musicians, conductor, orchestra, chorus and soloists. Everyone rose to the occasion and the roaring applause that ensued was more than deserved.