Raising voices to Mozart

By Jennifer Gall (Canberra Times)

Last Friday night's concert provided Mozart lovers with a selection of works from the composer's darker creations. National Capital Orchestra musical director Philip Hartstein and SCUNA musical director Jonathan Powles described their choice of works in terms of Mozart's musical exploration of "questions of mortality, morality, and the link between them", proposing that the evidence of these works indicate that Mozart was more aligned with the philosophical preoccupations of the early Romantic era than the rationalism of the Enlightenment.

The programming was a trifle eccentric, with the first and fourth movements of the Symphony No 25 in G minor book-ending a selection of duets and arias from three operas.

I would have preferred to hear the symphony in its entirety and experience how the orchestra handled the work as a whole, developing the dramatic tension inherent in the score.

Throughout the evening, the orchestra seemed plagued by inconsistencies in timing, with the different sections often at odds with each other and the conductor. That said, the National Capital Orchestra members maintained their energetic musicianship throughout the demanding program.

Benjamin Connor brought his customary professiionalism to this performance of Deh vieni alla finestra, immersing himself in the character and engaging with his mandolin-playing partner, David Wardle. In the duets with soprano Rachael Duncan, Là ci darem la mano and Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen, the two singers created a convincing expression of the relationships embodied in the music. Rachael Duncan shone on stage, combining her impressive operatic experience with a warm personal presence.

The second half of the concert opened with a deautifully phrased bassoon line and the choir gave a powerful performance in the Introitus of the Requiem, K 626. Indeed the SCUNA choristers excelled throughout the entire work. Timing problems were rarer in this part of the concert, and the musicians and conductor were united in their intentions. Tenor soloist, Robert Shearer made a memorable entry in the Dies Irae, demonstrating the agility and distinctive timbre of his voice and Daniel Brinsmead sang with distinguishing equanimity. There were well balanced, transcendent passages in the Quartet singing, particularly the Benedictus, supported by robust clarinet. Pamela Andrews (soprano) and Ellen Malone (Alto) blended their voices effectively, especially in Domine Jesu Christe in the Offertorium.

While it was a demanding program to present in one concert, choristers, instrumentalists and soloists held the attention of the audience and earned enthusiastic applause at the conclusion of the evening.