Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Mozart’s masterpieces left us with a warm and sunny glow

Benson Choral Society Dorchester Abbey Saturday, June 16

THIS concert, under the title “Mozart Masterpieces”, was well attended and also enjoyed a welcome visit from the setting sun that lit the inside of the ancient abbey with a warm glow.

The programme was well chosen, consisting of Mozart’s inspiring Laudate Dominum (K339), the sparkling Piano Concerto No 21 in C (K467) and the heavenly Mass in C minor (K427).

The Benson Choral Society’s permanent conductor, Christopher Walker was on excellent form and ably supported by his Elgar Orchestra.

They were joined by the society’s talented rehearsal pianist, Anita D’Attellis, who gave an apparently effortless performance of the piano concerto that buzzed with energy and brilliance.

Miss D’Attellis slowed down for long enough after the opening Allegro maestoso to produce an ethereally beautiful Andante that was everything Mozart could have wished for.

In particular, the forward-looking, romantic harmonic progression that so upset Mozart’s father as being “wrong” was so well balanced and seamless in its performance that even “Papa” would have had to admit that Mozart Junior got it right.

The bustling Allegro vivace assai that ended the concerto was very vivace, with Maestro Walker firmly imposing the assai element to keep the whole ensemble glued together. It made for an exciting performance that fully justified the audience’s enthusiastic reception of it.

The vocal highlights of the evening had to be the Laudamus Te solo, sung impeccably with warmth and clarity by mezzo soprano Susan Legg — and the short, but telling contribution by the tenor, Andrew Mackenzie-Wicks in the trio, Quoniam tu solus.

The soprano soloist, Elizabeth Roberts, had a pivotal role to play in both in the Laudate Dominum and the Mass but had a persistent problem with tonality.

She sang with a fast, wide vibrato that indicated approximately where the note should be in the tonal spectrum without actually establishing it. This was highlighted starkly in the Domine Deus duet when the soprano and mezzo soprano voices intertwine and echo each other, with uncomfortable results on this occasion.

Mozart’s beautifully transparent orchestration and his love of wind instruments offered many opportunities for tasteful instrumental display. The substantial oboe solos and duet with the flute in the Mass were particularly effective. The prominent wind solos in the piano concerto were played immaculately by bassoon and flute soloists, always firmly underpinned by light, sensitive string playing.

The choir had plenty to occupy it in this concert and was on good form. The balance was consistently excellent and, impressively, the sudden pianissimos they were called upon to execute in the Mass were disciplined and most effective. Their Credo was entirely credible and their Qui Tollis was a masterclass in clear diction.

One has to feel sorry for the bass soloist, Michael Bunday, whose short but essential claim to fame extended to just a few bars that occur in the final Benedictus. He made a full, rich and powerful sound. Perhaps he will return at some point in the future to regale us more prominently.

John Burleigh

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