Thursday, October 18, 2007

london symphony orchestra @ avery fisher hall, 10/17/07

my plans to see cadence weapon & holy fuck last night took a detour when i was offered a ticket to see the london symphony orchestra perform mozart's requiem at lincoln center. mozart's requiem mass is one of my favorite pieces of classical music, and there was no way i was going to turn down a chance to see the lso perform it, cadence weapon or no cadence weapon. it was the opening night of lincoln center's great performers series, and also the 80th birthday of the lso's conductor, sir colin davis. as part of the festivities, david selected several of his favorite works to perform, of which the requiem is only the first. friday features beethoven's eroica symphony, and haydn's the creation is heard on sunday afternoon.

the all-mozart program last night was touted as "a banner year, and then the end," as both works (piano concerto no. 27 in b-flat major and the requiem in d minor) were written by mozart in 1791, the year of his death. the piano concerto was playful, as performed by imogen cooper, though, lacking the drama and violence of requiem, i struggled to pay attention. after the intermission, though, my senses were high-strung and anxiously awaiting the first chords of "introitus." this movement sets the tone for the whole work, a stirring section that communicates the fear and heartbreak of death. the dramatic tempo, tone, and key shifts, not only in "introitus" but throughout requiem, are enough to bring color to your cheeks and tears to your eyes. every moment was rapture, especially "tuba mirum," featuring darren jeffery. the bassist's voice was unbelievably rich, caressing every note like velvet. my favorite movements, "rex tremendae," "confutatis," and "lacrimosa," were resounding.

as any viewer of amadeus will recall, mozart died before his requiem could be completed. however, the mysterious visitor was not salieri, but an emissary from a nobleman, a rather poor amateur musician, who commissioned composers to "ghost-write" works for him. this requiem was to be a mass for his wife's recent passing. so, with the requiem incomplete and mozart in the ground, two of his pupils stepped in. requiem was eventually completed by franz xaver süssmayer, though it is really impossible to speculate at the level of his involvement, considering the amount of time he and mozart spent together, discussing the work, before mozart's death. in any event, the requiem has been edited and re-worked since the original süssmayer version was produced, though davis, a staunch traditionalist, opted for the süssmayer completion for his birthday celebration. and a celebration it was, at least judging by the massive cake sir colin received at the end of the concerto.

i don't claim to be a mozart expert, nor an expert on classical music, but i do find the requiem to be a little less impressive in its second half than its first, the part that süssmayer wrote after mozart's death. however, as i said, requiem is one of my favorite overall works of music, and lso's performance of it last night certainly did it justice. the soloists were especially good, though jeffery and soprano marie arnet quite stole the show. avery fisher's acoustics are incredible, and, though the music was at times faint (owing to my position in the audience), every note came through, clear as a bell. a fine performance, and a happy birthday to sir colin!

though these are not from an lso release, they may whet your appetite if you've never heard requiem before.

academy & chorus of st. martin's in the fields, conducted by neville marriner

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