Friday, October 7, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Mozart's Great Mass In C Minor

Strauss: Metamorphosen (A study for 23 Solo Strings)
Mozart: Mass ("The Great") in C minor, K427
(Malin Hartelius, Julia Lezhneva, soprano; Martin Mitterrutzner, tenor; Ruben Drole, baritone; with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus)
Franz Welser-Most, conductor

I have to admit to some hesitation with tonight's program: Superficially, at least, it seemed to echo last week's program. But what a dramatic difference; if this is any indication for the rest of the season it should be a great one.

Opening the program, Strauss's beautifully gripping Metamorphosen, subtitled as a study for 23 solo strings. Based on that subtitle I was prepared for something...cacophonous...for lack of a better word. What we were given was delightfully coherent: While each of the 23 instruments at times made its independent voice heard above the others it was cohesive. And mournful; deeply mournful, though it is not for want of the occasional ray of sunlight; the glimmer of hope. Looking at the time the work was composed -- 1943-45 and the program note provides a crystal context for that emotion: World War II and both the death of friends and loved ones, not to mention the the utter destruction of cultural landmarks and heritage.

Following intermission, Mozart's Great Mass was well...great. The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus's performance was stunning, and while I've frequently felt that Mr. Welser-Most's sound is a little too rounded around the edges I not once got that sense tonight. The result was a near religious experience in which time--and the outside world seemed to stand still, while the music resonated with the pulse of the heart. Though the opening Kyrie was by a narrow option my favorite, there was a point during Qui tollis (part of Gloria) where I realized that was neither consciously paying attention to the music nor processing other thoughts: My mind was completely and utterly at ease, something that's all too rare.

Oddly striking in an otherwise warm Severance Hall, was the refreshing blast of cool air that seemed to accompany each time the chorus rose.

I was unmoved in either direction by the male soloists, my reactions to the female soloists, both sopranos, were strong: Something felt off about Ms. Hartelius's contribution to the piece; though I can't put my finger on the why, I tried to tune her out. On the other hand, Ms. Lezhneva's voice was merely a hair shy of being a siren's call (the siren of myth that lured many a sailor to their deaths, that is; not the annoying thing attached to emergency vehicles) and everything hid ever so slightly behind her vocal presence.


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