Saturday, March 11, 2006

Haydn & Mozart's Coronation Mass

This past Wednesday I went to the symphony again, because I wanted to hear the Mozart Coronation Mass. The conductor was Martin Haselböck, who I have never heard before. I bought my ticket 90 minutes before the performance, I got a very good seat front & center in the 1st tier.

Program opened with a Haydn choral work called The Storm. I was confused by the program notes as to what version of this work we were hearing. There seem to be versions in English, German & for chorus & for 4 soloists?

I almost always enjoy the SF Symphony chorus, but for some reason I found them not very interesting in this piece. Or maybe I just didn't think the piece was interesting, or the conductor didn't do much with it. I was already worried about the Mozart, because Haselböck was starting out as one of those deadly Mozart conductors who has an unvarying beat.

Next came an operatic scene for soprana, Scena di Berenice. It was an extended dramatic recitative rather than an aria. In fact, I kept waiting for the singer to launch into an aria, but it never happened. The soprano Christine Brandes gamely emoted through the whole thing. She had a strong voice & communicated the different emotions clearly.

To end the 1st part, Haselböck conducted Hadyn's Symphony No. 96. He was turning out to be not very interesting. There's no rubato in his conducting at all &, like Metzmacher last week, he doesn't balance the orchestra. He also seems to be giving no musical instructions to the orchestra. I thought he was just randomly gesturing to different sections, with no effect on the playing.

The one bright spot in the Haydn was Bill Bennet's high, strong solos in the 3rd movement.

After intermission was the Mozart Coronation Mass. This is the piece I came to hear, but I was having a hard time finding anything interesting to listen to in this performance. The soprano was back as one of the quartet of soloists, & she sounded very operatic, as did the tenor, Steve Davislim, who had a lyrical, bright voice. The mezzo & bass didn't have as much to do.

There was was sloppiness in the orchestra & even the chorus's basses at times were not making a uniform sound. The one big bonus was that Haselböck interpolated the Ave Verum Corpus right before the last movement. I thought the tempo was a hair to fast, but the chorus did a great job sustaining a soft sound throughout. There was an approriately appreciate silence from the audience after this number.

So this past 2 weeks of symphony concerts haven't been very good for me. But now I'm thinking of coming back in a couple of weeks for Rostrapovich's Shostakovich concerts.

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