Review of Mozart Great Mass and Requiem by Will Yeoman - Thursday 18 November 2010
St George's Cathedral
When your spine tingles from the first bar, you continuously have to fight back tears and, at the end of it all, the conductor turns to take his bow looking like he's just gone a round with Danny Green, you know you've just experienced an extraordinary musical event.
Comprising two of the great unfinished works of the choral repertoire, Mozart's "Great" C minor Mass and his Requiem in D minor, this concert by four soloists, the St George's Cathedral Consort and a chamber orchestra featuring some of WASO's finest, all under the baton of Joseph Nolan, will live long in the collective memory of the capacity audience.
Why? Firstly, the music itself was sublime, with Mozart's ability to synthesise different styles, from high-church polyphony to Neapolitan opera, operating at full tilt from start to finish.
Secondly, Nolan's ability to feel the expressive weight of each note in the context of the whole without disrupting the natural flow of the music or short-circuiting its emotional logic was again powerfully on show.
Every strand in fugues such as that of the Mass's Gloria felt like they'd had an electric current applied to them; the drama of the same movement's Qui tollis section and the Dies irae of the Requiem was almost unbearable in its intensity; the Mass's closing Benedictus for solo quartet and double choir radiated joy and profundity in equal measure.
Thirdly, soloists, choir and orchestra sang and played as though their lives depended on it. Yes, there were the occasional infelicities, with mezzo Courtney Pitman's more florid passages less than secure and tenor Paul McMahon and baritone Robert Hofmann, otherwise dramatically convincing, sometimes lacking crispness of attack.
But soprano Sara Macliver to my mind had never sounded more radiant - her Et incarnates est with the equally beguiling trio of flautist Andrew Nicholson, Oboist Stephanie Nicholls and bassoonist Adam Mikulicz was one of the highlights of the evening - while the Cathedral Consort sang with an almost otherworldly precision and explosive power. The orchestra, playing on modern instruments but in fine period style, was equally convincing throughout.
The word "genius" is perhaps too readily bandied about these days. I think it's more accurate to say that Joseph Nolan has a supreme talent for recognizing where in a piece of music the genius resides, and how to communicate that to an audience in the most direct and uncompromising fashion. More of a musician you cannot ask.