An evening with Mozart and Haydn's sacred music.
Summary: St Joseph's Church belonged to Justyna Reczeniedi on Friday evening. The Polish soprano led the amassed forces of the Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra, the choirs of the National Conservatoire and Antonine University, under the direction of Rob Vermeulen, in a couple of hours of sacred music.
BEIRUT: St Joseph's Church belonged to Justyna Reczeniedi on Friday evening. The Polish soprano led the amassed forces of the Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra, the choirs of the National Conservatoire and Antonine University, under the direction of Rob Vermeulen, in a couple of hours of sacred music, composed by the classical tradition's best-known composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Josef Haydn.
Though she shared the altar with three more soloists from the Warsaw Chamber Opera - mezzo-soprano Elzbieta Wroblewska, tenor Mateusz Zajdel and bass Slawomir Jurczak - Reczeniedi's was the lone solo voice for the first half of the program. Devoted to the music of Mozart, who had difficulty finishing the orchestration of his masses, the first half of the concert featured some of the best-loved tunes from Mozart's sacred repertoire.
The choirs and orchestra opened the evening with a stirring version of the Kyrie in D Minor, from Mozart's Requiem Mass. It is a booming piece of music, even when performed by a more diminutive period orchestra. Here, maestro Vermeulen pulled out all the stops for his players, giving the orchestra and choirs free reign to fill every alcove and confessional of the Jesuit church - which, it has been opined, can be acoustically unforgiving - with sound.
A smiling Reczeniedi took the stage for "Exultate, jubilate" in F major, a relatively early composition that Mozart fashioned to showcase the virtuoso soprano voice. The vocal and instrumental accompaniment - still energetic after the Kyrie - conspired with the church's acoustics to devour some of the soprano's more delicate upper-register ornamentation, giving the impression that her relationship with them was more competitive than complementary.
She persevered through their exaltation, nevertheless, and drummed up reserves of energy for her own bits of jubilance. Her high-C crescendo in the dying moments of the piece sounded not unlike the coup de grace that ends an unfair fight. The singular impression you are left with after Reczeniedi's contribution to "Exultate, jubilate" is how interesting it would be to hear her with period accompaniment.
Orchestra and choirs were called back to reform the ranks along contemplative lines for the "Ave Verum Corpus" in D major. Composed in the final year of Mozart's life, and the last sacred work he ever finished, this motet is regarded by some classical music aficionados to be among the loveliest pieces of music ever composed. Choirs and orchestra attained level of balance for the whole if its 46 bars, though the orchestra exhibited a little shakiness just after the piece's choral crescendo, as if the chorus' dying fall were a little too heavy for it to bear.
The solemn tone continued when Reczeniedi returned for the "Laudate Dominum," a piece Mozart composed in the early 1780s for his then-patron the archbishop of Salzburg. It is here that soloist, choral and orchestral accompaniment complemented one another most comfortably.
Though she looked a trifle fatigued as she returned to the alter for her final turn with Mozart, the operatic aria "Et incarnatus est" from his unfinished C Minor Mass, the piece afforded the soloist her best opportunity to shine in the first half of the program. For these six minutes or so, her voice - by turns delicate, insistent and allusive - ascended and descended the scales in that manifestly secular devotion to profane sensuality that only Mozart could pass off as "sacred." - The Daily Star
Al-Bustan continues on Tuesday with "Sound carried by the wind," an evening of chamber music with Denmark's five-piece wind ensemble Carion performing a program of Vivaldi/Bach, Danzi, Rosetti, Ravel, Hindemith and Elgar. For more information ring +961 3 752 000.
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