REVIEW: The Minnesota Chorale offered a powerful set of sacred works led by their talented director.
Minnesota Chorale artistic director Kathy Saltzman Romey's job is usually to prepare her chorus for other conductors. We should hear her conduct the Minnesota Orchestra more often, if Saturday's entrée in the Mid-Winter Mozart Festival is any indication.
She programmed the chorale in five sacred works by Mozart, a more diverse program than that description might suggest. She arranged them into a powerful set, in which they gained effect through juxtaposition.
From the opening of the dark Kyrie in D minor, she demonstrated her sure hand at orchestral dynamics.
The pleas of "Lord have mercy" echoed passionately and majestically against an orchestra projecting no small amount of ominousness.
The 19-year-old Mozart wrote the "Misericordias Domini" for the Elector of Bavaria. His boss at the time, the archbishop of Salzburg, had forbidden the use of polyphony, so Mozart used this opportunity to create an intricate polyphonic setting. The chorale sang with utmost clarity, rendering the complex writing transparent.
The familiar "Ave verum corpus" was breathtaking in its transcendent simplicity. The "Inter natos mulierum," stately and fast-paced, was sung with a crystalline sound that seemed to shine. The 12-year-old Mozart's joyous setting of "Veni Sancte Spiritus," capped by an extended "Alleluia," completed the journey from darkness to light.
The Horn Concerto No. 2 is a graceful and lyrical work. Minnesota Orchestra music director Osmo Vänskä used the reduced forces (only two oboes and horns added to the strings) to showcase the performance of associate principal horn Herbert Winslow. He played with a mellow and supple tone, secure in sustained lines and dramatic runs, crowned with an impressive trill.
Vänskä brought a dramatic fire to the opening of the Symphony No. 39. By contrast, the gentle delicacy of the Andante was even more effective, though a rhythmic laxness made it seem to unravel.
This was followed by a rather lead-footed Allegretto. Vänskä recovered with an Allegro finale of energetic high spirits.
The Turkish-sounding "Abduction From the Seraglio" overture was playful to the point of being raucous and "The Impresario" overture captured the comic energy of the silly Singspiel, each without losing Mozart's effervescent charm.
Both made me wish the curtain could have gone up on the operas.
William Randall Beard writes about music.