Choral Music Review Print



Choral Society of Greensboro: Mozart"s Mass in C Minor, K.427

November 5, 2005 - Greensboro, NC:


Greensboro is lucky to have a well-prepared choral ensemble that regularly presents musically solid free performances to the public. Many community choruses tend to be short of male voices, but the Choral Society of Greensboro, with 180+ members, is very evenly balanced. Clear and crisp diction and well-blended tone were among the virtues displayed during a November 5 concert in the fine acoustics of Dana Auditorium, Guilford College. A small "ad hoc" chamber orchestra was carefully balanced and made strong contributions during solo opportunities; the horns and woodwinds were especially fine. Music Director Welborn E. Young led a nicely balanced presentation that was stylishly phrased by all his forces.

Mozart began the Mass in C Minor, K.427, in the summer of 1782 to honor his promise to perform a Mass in Costanza's honor when he took her to Salzburg to meet his father, Leopold, who had withheld his blessing of the marriage. The visit was not a success, and by the time of its first performance, in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter on October 26, 1783, the work was still an incomplete torso. It is not known whether the missing parts were filled in, perhaps using movements from his earlier masses, or omitted. "Received tradition" – for what it is worth – has Costanza herself singing one of the two solo soprano parts. What has come down to us are a complete Kyrie and Gloria, two movements of the Credo, a Sanctus missing one of its two choruses, a Benedictus missing its second chorus in the da capo, and no Agnus Dei at all. The Choral Society gave only the parts finished by Mozart.

All the virtues CVNC described in Julie Celona Van Gorden's UNCG Opera Theatre performance of the title role of Delibes' Lakmé were present in her singing of the first soprano's part. Her voice was seamless across its range with a lovely tone and pleasing timbre. Her highs were perfectly focused. Whoever sang the soprano II part for Mozart must have had an amazingly broad range or perhaps, as a choir member quipped, "the composer had it in for her." In most masses, this would be taken by a mezzo-soprano, in order to deal with the low-lying portion. In this case, the unfortunate singer is also expected to soar up into a soprano's high range! Like most normal singers, Shana Riley was over-parted for these cruel demands, but her highs were excellent and came easily. She did all that could be done with the low parts, but her voice was clearly strained. The men – tenor Daniel C. Stein and bass James Wilson – were excellent in their rather brief segments. Stein has a pleasant, warm tenor that was easily projected. Wilson has a somewhat light bass voice that readily filled the hall. In the ensembles, the soloists' voices blended to good effect. Whether singing loudly or softly, the choir maintained very high standards of enunciation and intonation.