Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E Flat, D 950
The Louisville Chorus and The Louisville Philharmonia
Daniel Spurlock, conductor
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved
On a rainy Sunday afternoon a bountiful audience came to lovely St. Boniface Church in Downtown Louisville to partake of the loveliness of the surroundings as well as the musical talents of The Louisville Chorus and The Louisville Philharmonia, who call themselves the ‘Musician’s Orchestra’.
The afternoon began with Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Serenade to Music, featuring 16 members of the Chorus, including featured soloists Mary Redden (soprano), Maggie Schwenker (mezzo), Daniel Weeks (tenor), (subbing for an ailing Randall Black) and Alexander Redden (bass/baritone). While on the whole the ensemble gave an admirable performance, too often phrasing was lost or difficult to understand, and there were moments of tonal flatness. I’m not sure if it was because of the acoustics of the sanctuary or the volume of the Philharmonia, but I was a tad disappointed in not being able to understand the lyrics. Also, I could not hear a differentiation of the 12 part division. Perhaps it was decided to not follow through with that particular musical notation.
But despite these problems, the talented ensemble held their own when a series of unfortunate events took place within the span of time in performing Serenade to Music; squeaky shoes walking the aisles of the church, music scores falling off of their stands, instrumental strings breaking. Maestro Spurlock and his fellow musicians took it all in stride, with smiles on their faces. I am happy to say that I don’t recall any other mishaps for the continuation of the afternoon. Got to love live performances: one never knows what might happen.
Ms. Schwenker was the featured soloist for Johann Sebastian Bach’s oft performed oratorio St. Matthew(‘s) Passion, in which she performed Erbarme dich mein Gott (have mercy my God). This particular piece can evoke emotion whether heard separately or within the whole of the oratorio and Ms. Schwenker’s interpretation was lovely as it sat well within her rich mezzo range. Matthew Lane’s violin solo was perfect accompaniment.
I am happy to say that René Clauson’s Kyrie was certainly one of the highlights of the afternoon. While not being familiar with this selection, from a larger piece titled Memorial, I am looking forward to learning more about it. It was simple and elegant with sweeping melodies, and all musicians, instrumental and vocal/choral, were balanced and clear.
After an extended intermission came the piece de resistance, Franz Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E flat. Considered one of Schubert’s greatest triumphs and written just months before his passing, it premiered posthumously, directed by his brother Ferdinand.
The Mass, with movements Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei was performed in the original Latin, but again, understanding lyrics was problematic. But the emotions were certainly there. Of the movements the Gloria seemed to run into the most trouble, with energy seeming to wane from the chorus and an often un-uniform cutoff, from instrument and voice alike.
But these were but little problems as within the Gloria a soaring and uplifting trio by Mr. and Ms. Redden and Mr. Weeks came forth. Beautifully executed and graceful. It was at this point I believe that confidence was regained within the ensemble.
The performance ended strongly with the Agnus Dei and was certainly deserving of appreciation and applause.
With the difficulty in hearing lyrics, I wondered if it was a simple case of balancing the orchestra with the vocal reach of its chorus, meaning that sometimes when the Philharmonia was playing forte, perhaps a simple mezzo-forte would have helped the chorus.
There is no doubt that we are certainly lucky in regards to the wonderful talents that abound in and around our city and I appreciate Maestro Spurlock’s continuation of the institution that is The Louisville Chorus and welcoming The Louisville Philharmonia with open arms as well.
I look forward to the 77th Season MasterWorks Concert.
Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E Flat, D 950
The Louisville Chorus with The Louisville Philharmonia
St. Boniface Catholic Church
531 East Liberty Street
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Annette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]