Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Choral and Vocal
TRAVELING CHORISTERS SO CO DEBUT IN TWO BIG CANTATAS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 25, 2022
Choral and Vocal
RARE MOZART COUPLING COMPLETES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON IN SCHROEDER
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, May 28, 2022
Choral and Vocal
A SPIRITUAL FAURE REQUIEM IN GOOD FRIDAY CANTIAMO CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Friday, April 15, 2022
Choral and Vocal
SONOMA BACH'S PALESTRINA FEAST AT ST. SERAPHIMS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, March 20, 2022
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Choral and Vocal
A MAJESTIC ABS MESSIAH ORATORIO RESOUNDS IN WEILL DEC. 18
by Joanna Bramel Young
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Choral and Vocal
EARLY CHRISTMAS SEASON TRIUMPH FOR 24 ANGELS IN WEILL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Choral and Vocal
EASTER AND ASCENSION ORATORIOS SOAR IN ABS MARIN CONCERT
by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, April 22, 2016
Choral and Vocal
CHANTICLEER SINGS TO THE MOON IN WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, April 16, 2016
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Sonoma Bach / Saturday, May 28, 2022
Bob Worth, conductor. Sonoma Bach Choir; Live Oak Orchestra. Danielle Reutter-Harrah, soprano; Heidi Waterman, alto; Daniel Hutchings, tenor; Nikolas Nackley, bass

Soprano Danielle Reutter-Harrah

RARE MOZART COUPLING COMPLETES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON IN SCHROEDER

by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, May 28, 2022

Sonoma Bach closed their impressive 2021-22 season May 28 treating a full Schroeder Hall audience to a pair of beloved, unfinished Mozart standards, The (Great) Mass in C Minor, and his Requiem from 1791, both conducted masterfully by founder and artistic director Robert Worth. Although modern audiences are accustomed to hearing the complete settings of the texts of these two masses (and not accustomed to hearing them both on the same evening!), the original music left to us by Mozart himself comprises only about three fourths of these two works, the remainder being filled out and completed by others using the few sketches and notes the composer left behind.†

The C Minor Mass was begun in 1782 but set aside, presumably due to Mozartís other pursuits and personal interruptions, and he never got around to finishing it. Mozart died before being able to complete the Requiem, at the age of 35. In these two works one can hear how the composer was pointing to the music of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Weber and Schubert, and we can try to imagine what direction his style would have taken, had he lived to be a seminal Romantic, or even a late Classical artist.

Deciding to present only the "torsos" as Mr. Worth puts it, made for a concert reduced to a comfortable time frame, although it was a bit odd having the C Minor Mass close unexpectedly with the simultaneously heavenly and fiendishly challenging soprano solo "Et incarnatus est" at the end of the Credo, the most intimate section of the entire work. However, after intermission launching into the Requiem made it seem as though both pieces had been joined into one. The Requiem concluded with the "Offertorium", omitting the "Sanctus", "Benedictus", "Agnus Dei" and "Communion". †

This was a fully masked performance, not just the audience, but most of the performers as well, and the soloists removed their masks when they sang, and put them back on when they sat down. The chorus and orchestra (excepting the brass and wind sections) stayed masked throughout. Mr. Worth understandably went without. A great deal of respect and sympathy goes out to these plucky and devoted musicians for being able to sing and play so well under these conditions. And remarkably the sound was not that much compromised. To be sure the chorus had a slightly muted sound, but not so much as to mar their admirable output of runs, or create any significant balance issues. Entrances were crisp, diction was amazingly clear, blend was lovely and expression was fully communicated.

The Mass and Requiem both display all of the pathos, fireworks and vocal fun Mozart is known for. There are great contrapuntal sections, emotional melodies and dramatic orchestral color despite the smaller size of the ensemble. Both works also prominently feature the solo quartet, primarily the soprano in the C Minor, with the romping coloratura of "Laudamus te" and the exquisitely floating "Et incarnatus", written with his wife Constanze's voice and technical abilities in mind. Soprano Danielle Reutter-Harrah, heard beautifully last year in Brahms Deutsches Requiem, again brought her expressive, silvery voice and outstanding technical finesse to this rarified vocal task. Alto Heidi Waterman has an exceptionally smooth, rich, and powerful voice which blended perfectly with Ms. Reutter-Harrah's ethereal soprano in their duet sections. Tenor Daniel Hutchings and bass Nikolas Nackley rounded out the quartet expressively and powerfully in their more limited roles, and were solidly balanced.

Mr. Worth obviously has a great love for this music. He commanded the proceedings with explosive entrances, passionate rhythmic excitement and lively and extremely clean contrapuntal energy. I had a sense that everyone may have been a little fatigued in this second performance, but they all rose to the occasion nonetheless with unflagging professionalism. The Live Oak Baroque Orchestra played with the stylistic familiarity and stylistic expertise one has come to expect from this chamber orchestra, and they appeared to be playing almost from memory, which further elevated the quality of the performance.

The "Et incarnatus est" at the end of the Credo in the Mass, written for high soprano, is a miracle of chamber playing for solo voice, flute, oboe and bassoon, including an extended, very florid ensemble cadenza. Although treacherous to keep together, it was pristinely executed all-round. Another favorite instrumental moment is the trombone solo in the Requiem's "Tuba mirum" section.†

Ending the Requiem with Mozart's last own "Hostias" was as good a place as any to bring the concert to a close on this year's Memorial Day weekend. Synchronicity is indeed a curious and welcome phenomenon. As the "Hostias" text fittingly and heartbreakingly reads:

"We offer unto you this sacrifice of prayer and praise.
Receive it for those souls whom today we commemorate.
Allow them, Lord, to cross from death into life,
Which you once promised to Abraham and to his descendants."