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The excellent UNCSA Cantata Singers, under the direction of their new maestro, Nathan Zullinger, performed the Missa in angustiis by Franz Josef Haydn, better known as the Lord Nelson Mass, at Home Moravian Church in the heart of old Salem. The concert was introduced by the much-admired tenor, Glenn Siebert, functioning in the dual capacity of faculty member of UNCSA and Music Director of Home Moravian Church, which dates back to the time of the first performance of the Haydn Mass.
Haydn was at the height of his powers when he composed this Mass. He had finished over a hundred symphonies, recently completed his monumental Creation and was shortly to begin The Seasons. Many consider this Mass one of Haydn's best works for chorus and orchestra. Written at a moment when many of his wind players were unavailable, Haydn scored this mass for three trumpets (poor fellow on third trumpet – only a few doubled notes to play!), timpani, organ, and strings, although the original manuscript has instructions for when the bassoon should sit out, implying that the bassoonist was still about. There are major solos for soprano and bass and several smaller solos for tenor and alto, but the bulk of the material is for the chorus, which gave the strongest performance on this Sunday afternoon.
A multiplicity of singers, too numerous to mention, were called upon to sing the solos, but several stood out. Soprano Lulu Richardson opened the Kyrie with warmth and depth, and soprano Alicia Reid was strong in the later sections of the Credo. Bass Kelly DeLameter showed a lovely tone in the "Qui tollis" portion of the Gloria.
The Concert opened with an earnest reading of Edvard Grieg's popular Holberg Suite, Op. 40, for string orchestra. Formatted in baroque style, the suite resembled the pattern of a Bach suite – prelude, sarabande, gavotte, air, and rigaudon. The performance was energetic and enthusiastic, but choppy – phrases weren't allowed to end before attacking the next ones. The result was an episodic performance rather than a unified conception in which the structure leads to the climax and then to a reasonable dénouement.
Maestro Zullinger, the energetic young conductor, very much in charge of the chorus as well as the orchestra, must bear some of the responsibility of the choppy phrasing of the Grieg and a certain vagueness of the architecture of the Haydn. Experience and thorough analysis of the phenomenal structure will certainly be assets to his obvious raw talent!