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Yannick’s Mozart Requiem

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The Philadelphia Orchestra,
Yannick Nezet-Sequin, conducting
Mozart/Sussmayr Requiem
Verizon Hall, January 7-10, 2011
Review of Saturday night’s performance airs on WRTI, 90. 1 fm Jan. 11

Photo: Pete Checchia

Verizon Hall sold out for music director- designate Yannick Nezet- Seguin’s recent performances of the Mozart Requiem with the Philadelphia Orchestra. I heard Saturday night’s performance of the Requiem, which was finished by Mozart’s student, Sussymayr. The finest impressions came from the singing. A quartet of un-celebrity soloists blended well together. Soprano Lucy Crowe, who looks a Masterpiece Theater heroine, sang with ample ease and lovely fullness. The young bass-baritone, Andrew Foster-Williams, also has a beautiful limpid tone. Mezzo-soprano Birgit Remmert and tenor James Taylor completed the pliable ensemble.

David Hayes, as usual, had rehearsed the Philadelphia Singers Chorale to produce splendid sonorities following Nezet-Sequin’s markings and baton. Michael Stairs was authoritative at the organ. The 35- year -old Nezet-Seguin, who formally takes the Philadelphian Orchestra podium in the fall of 2012, has a keen interest in vocal matters. He got his start as a boy chorister in Montreal, studied choral conducting at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ.

There were interesting placements. Nezet-Sequin put the vocal quartet stage- rear adjacent to the double basses. The violins were divided. Reducing the orchestra to roughly half the size of the chorus, may have been un-wise for the instruments did not come across with this orchestra’s customary fullness or given acoustical challenges. Bottom and top harmonies sounded of more concern than inner voices.

The Requiem, only 60 minutes long, felt longer, as movements changed to pleading and churning; the “Lacyrmosa” was particularly lugubrious. A rhythmic undercurrent was missing to the expressive whole: no gulfstream propelling this ocean of moods.

I’m in the minority: The Requiem received many standing Os.

(The Mozart/Sussmayr Requiem cannot shake – indeed enjoys -its “Amadeus” celebrity and deathbed myths. People are prepared to cheer before a note’s begun. A good thing to have this box office draw but indulge the critic for maintaining the highest standards for this orchestra!)

Nezet-Seguin excels in quiet, shimmering, transparencies: those so-called Gallic passages. Debussy’s Nocturne, “Clouds” was perfect and graced by Elizabeth Star- Masoudnia’s fluid English horn. Less satisfactory were “Festivals,” the nocturne sounding more rushed rather than impeutuous through its transitions, and “Sirens,” whose wordless singing projected heavier than one imagines such fictional creatures.

Like “Clouds,” the encore, Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus floated: quiet and sublime.

During an audience meet and greet in Verizon Hall after the concert, Nezet-Seguin, answered questions. (The host was Orchestra President Allison Vulgamore.) Fresh from his triumph with the Metropolitan Opera’s Don Carlo, Nezet-Sequin gave a definitive “Yes!” to concert operas during his tenure; explained his rehearsal process for the Mozart Requiem and his theory of programming “combinations.” The parque was almost full to hear the charismatic maestro, who gives the impression of a being an open and very happy fellow.

NB: Above photo: Maestro Nezet-Seguin (left) with Principal Tympany Don Liuzzi.

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Written by Lesley Valdes

January 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm

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