Sunday, February 26, 2006

MUSIC: Mozart Requiem

Friday night we had the pleasure of attending the LA Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The program was all Mozart, in honor of Mozart's recent 250th birthday, and more personally, for the recent 50th birthday of two dear friends. The Disney Hall is always a treat, as the brilliant design of the place provides the intimacy of chamber music for an audience of two thousand. This feeling was enhanced by this classical program performed by a pared-down orchestra of a dozen violins, a few violas, cellos, and basses, a couple of oboes, a couple of bassoons, and a couple of horns. The first piece, Piano Concerto No. 19 in F Major (K. 459), featured Orion Weiss on the piano, who brightly and fluidly turned out Mozart's rapid scales and ornaments in lovely counterpoint with the orchestra. The acoustics of the hall are superb, and you can hear every nuance and every note with unparalleled clarity. (The only downside to this was when some shameless woman had her cellphone go off, playing some ghastly ringtone.)

The second piece was Mozart's famous Requiem in D Minor (K. 626), where the piano was replaced with four soloists, the 80-strong USC Thornton Choral Artists, and organ. (The Disney Hall's impressive organ has a high main console for organ recitals, but also a console that can be positioned with the orchestra, as was done tonight.) The Requiem was a marvelous thing, ranging from the powerful full-chorus Kyrie and Dies Irae to the evocative simplicity of Tuba Miram, beginning with a beautiful solo alternation between a trombone and the bass voice. The soloists -- soprano Celena Shafer, mezzo Ruxandra Donose, tenor Eric Cutler, and bass Alfred Reiter -- were all outstanding. Reiter is perhaps the clearest bass I've ever heard. Cutler's tones were golden, Donose was dulcet, and Shafer sparkled. (Both Orion Weiss and Celena Shafer were last-minute replacements for scheduled soloists who were ill, but we hardly felt short-changed by their impressive performances.) The USC Thornton Choral Artists gave a powerful performance for this powerful piece. All were capably lead by conductor Christoph von Dohnányi. One of the treats of the Disney Hall, especially in our seats on the side of the orchestra, is being close enough to see the interaction of the conductor with the musicians. And in a work with such interaction between the various instruments and voices, it was an extra pleasure to watch as well as to hear the music.

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