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The National Chorale - Mozart Requiem

- Classical and Cultural

Music Performance Reviews

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

The National Chorale
And National Chorale Orchestra

Mozart Requiem

Martin Josman, Music Director
Crail Conner, Soprano
Rosa Maria Pascarella, Alto
Rockland Osgood, Tenor
David Kravitz, Bass

Performed at Avery Fisher Hall


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Vesperae Solennes de Dominica,
K. 321 (1779)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Ave Verum Corpus, K. 618 (1791), Anthem for Chorus and Orchestra

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Requiem. K. 626 (1791)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 9, 2004

The National Chorale, a professional choral company, successfully performs annual NY seasons at Avery Fisher Hall and will also sing next year at a Carnegie Hall New Year's Eve Gala. The Chorale, founded in 1967, tours nationally and presents concerts in NYC parks each summer. They also work with students in the pubic schools as Artists-in-Residence. Martin Josman is Music Director of the Chorale. Mr. Josman has conducted more than 1,500 concerts across the country and has often appeared on television. He also directed the music for a TV special on President Kennedy and is renowned for presenting new and commissioned works. (Program Notes).

Crail Conner, soprano, has appeared on numerous occasions in NY concerts, musical theater, and in new commissioned works. Rosa Maria Pascarella, alto, sings in concert and in operas. Ms. Pascarella performed with the Chicago Lyric Opera. Rockland Osgood, tenor, has performed in NY in Messiah, and has appeared nationally in concerts and operas. David Kravitz, baritone, performs in contemporary and repertory works and appeared with the Boston Symphony. (Program Notes).

Vesperae Solennes de Dominica was composed by Mozart at the age of 23. This is a series of Psalms and Magnificat text. It is scored for solo vocal quartet, full chorus, strings (no violas), organ, timpani, trumpets, bassoons, and trombones. (Program Notes).
From my seat, midway to the rear of Fisher Hall, it was difficult, throughout the evening, to hear portions of the soprano solos and to hear almost any of the alto solos. This is in no way indicative of a problem with the strength of these performers, but rather with the renowned, trapped acoustics onstage at Fisher Hall. Fortunately, the National Chorale Orchestra performs with expertise in enhancing and supporting the choral music, rather than overpowering it. Only in the Requiem, did I hear definitive instrumental solos. The Vesperae were sung with solemnity and grace.

Ave Verum Corpus was composed by Mozart near the end of his life at the request of a friend. It is scored for continuo, strings, and full chorus. (Program Notes). The brief Ave was a lovely tribute to Good Friday, the date of this performance, and the full chorus (no soloists) and orchestra developed the sensual spirituality that this anthem signifies.

Mozart's Requiem was the haunting score for the film, "Amadeus", and was composed during the final year of Mozart's life. This composition was interrupted and then begun once again, as Mozart lay ill and dying. Mozart's student, Sussmayr, completed the Requiem, beyond the opening of the Lacrymosa, according to detailed instructions, discovered in 1962. (Program Notes). The Requiem was obviously the featured piece and the highlight for this audience. I breathlessly awaited the infamous Rex tremendae and Confutatis, as well as the opening of Lacrymosa, Mozart's final notes. I was not disappointed, as Martin Josman led The National Chorale in the creation of searing sounds that pierced the Hall with passion and symbolic pain.

Requiem aeternam opens the Requiem with wave-like, dreamy orchestral effects, followed by passionate choral and solo soprano passages. Kyrie Eleison, with full chorus, brought back images from the film, Amadeus. Dies irae was brief, but bristling. Tuba mirum, with opening passages for each soloist, and enhanced with ecstatic brass, requires full dynamics from each soloist to introduce the full choral and orchestral effect of the chilling Rex tremendae, which immediately follows. With the acoustical limitations, the soprano and alto were eloquent, but often elusive in Tuba. Yet, Rex did not disappoint, and Recordare, the subsequent movement, was mellow and soaring, with duets for soprano and tenor, and sometimes trios, as the bass entered melodically. The solos are especially significant here, and Ms. Conner and Mr. Osgood joined forces sublimely, as Mr. Kravitz and Ms. Pascarella were heard in elegant accompaniment.

The powerful Confutatis, for full chorus, showcased the female and male choral sections masterfully in separate, as well as shared passages, before it trailed off in quietude. As the strings and then chorus introduce Lacrymosa, one must wonder at what point Mozart's notes ended and Sussmayr's began (Sussmayr never gained fame for any original works after this venture). This mournful movement ends with Amen. Domine Jesu, for soloists and chorus, seemed to have been created with a different, less edgy electricity than were the previous movements, and it ends in exquisite harmonies, perhaps as a memoriam to Mozart. Hostias was infused with a pleading quality, as choral volume rises and falls to a whisper, and sopranos extend notes with natural ease.

Quam olim Abrahae was bright and vibrant, with an occasionally racing orchestral backup, ending in deep harmonies. Sanctus and Osanna, both brief, but nurturing and pure, featured tenors and basses, followed by sopranos and altos, along with percussive support. Benedictus, for solo quartet, requires full orchestral enhancement, as the chorus is silent, and sometimes I wished for a much larger instrumental influence, but the National Chorale Orchestra was flawless in its interpretation of this movement's prominent presence. Osanna briefly re-appears with full choral brilliance.

Agnus Dei, for chorus, almost disappears in thin air with whispered effects, prior to tenor and bass emergence. Martin Josman, Music Director, kept a fine watch on all such varying volume and vocal nuances. Lux aeterna, for soprano solo and chorus, was extremely spiritual, and Ms. Conner held center stage. At some point, during this movement, I did detect a thematic difference between this and the earlier Mozart-created movements. Finally, Cum sanctis tuis, with its racing choral and orchestral rhythms, and with potent, percussive influence, ends with a predictable, but exciting flourish.

Kudos to Martin Josman and The National Chorale, as well as to the four fine soloists in tonight's performance of Mozart's Requiem. I would love to hear them perform in a cathedral with tighter acoustics and a more spiritual ambiance.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at