Matthew Halls, conductor
Joélle Harvey, soprano
Krisztina Szabo, mezzo-soprano
Paul Appleby, tenor
Michael Sumuel, bass-baritone
Blossom Festival Chorus
Lisa Wong, director
August 2, 2019
Mozart: Mass in C minor, K427, Great
The Blossom Festival Chorus had one chance to shine during the Summers@Severance series this year, and they more than made it count in Friday’s performance of Mozart’s Mass in C minor. Mozart perplexingly never completed the Mass (and unlike the case of the also incomplete Requiem, he lived for nearly another decade), yet even its fragmentary state, it remains an undisputed masterwork. Several attempts have been made to complete the work, but conductor Matthew Halls opted for the extant torso in a performing edition by Helmut Eder.
A weighty pathos, buttressing the epithet Great, was to be had from the onset of the Kyrie. The force of the chorus was quickly introduced, countered by the delicate beauty of soprano Joélle Harvey’s voice (in a passage I cannot dissociate from a memorable scene in Amadeus). A powerful response from the chorus was elicited. Tenor Paul Appleby introduced the Gloria unaccompanied as if to announce the commanding fugue, a rather glorious affair bearing a more than passing resemblance to Handel’s Hallelujah chorus.
Mozart wrote the work with his soprano wife Constanze in mind, and consequently there exists a bounty of wondrous writing for the two soprano soloists – and Krisztina Szabo’s flexible instrument was up to the vocal acrobatics in the “Laudamus te”. Crisp dotted rhythms during “Qui tollis” were emblematic of Halls’ tight direction, and there the choral passages were of a tragic beauty that foreshadowed the Requiem. The closing “Cum Sancto Spiritu” beamed in its contrapuntal splendors, anchored by an imposing bass line in the trombone.
The booming bass-baritone of Michael Sumuel opened the Credo just as Appleby did in the Gloria. “Et incarnatus est” was a highlight in its delicate orchestrations, with fine contributions from the principal winds, strings, organ, and Harvey’s limpid vocals. An ebullient and brassy Sanctus led to the prematurely closing Benedictus, the only time vocal quartet were scored together – one only wished there were more opportunities for the ensemble to explore their obvious chemistry.