Vancouver Chamber Choir

Mozart 250

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik K. 525 and Requiem, K. 626

Conductor Jon Washburn With Trinity Western University Masterworks Choir and the CBC Radio Orchestra Soloists Gabriela Bone, Renée Lapointe, Karl-Michael Ebner, and Thomas Goerz

Date 14 April 2006, 20.00 Venue Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer JH Stape

As part of the on-going celebration of Mozart's 250th year, the Vancouver Chamber Choir 's choice of composer comes as no surprise. The pairing of works was, however, certainly novel: the sprightly, terribly overplayed Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and that solemn, perfervid masterpiece the Missa da Requiem? Are emotions so flexible, ears so instantly adaptable to the shift register and harmonies? As it turned out, the novel was simply peculiar, two parts of the programme (which began late and had a long intermission) being mismatched.

But that wasn't all that was amiss in an evening of pairings that didn't work.Eine Kleine Nachtmusik got a merely perfunctory run through where effervescence was mere fizz and charm simply gooey. The sound Maestro Washburn cajoled out of the CBC Orchestra lacked polish, and until the fourth movement rondo, was dull and colourless. In the end, the performance was uncommitted and unfocussed, showing neither the performers nor Mozart to advantage. If this was part of a birthday cake, it was mostly undercooked, lacked spice and in the end simply fell terribly flat.

The Requiem fared an only marginally better fate after a distinctly lacklustre opening, but still came across as woefully under-rehearsed. Again, Maestro Washburn lacked the force to blow much life into this great piece. There was a lot of huffing and puffing, and flailing about, but the delivery was mainly passionless, marred, moreover, by too many a raggedy moment and an interpretive insufficiency that never got much beyond a metronymic conception of the score.

The two choirs -- they obviously hadn't sang much together -- struggled nobly, but remained earthbound where they should have soared and often enough came across as effortfully working hard on something beyond their reach.

The bright point of the evening -- and there was one -- was the contribution of the four soloists, who seemed to have wandered in from a parallel musical universe. Although soprano Gabriela Bone sounded pinched and reedy at times, her colleagues delivered musically and dramatically vivid performances. Quebecois mezzo Renée Lapointe used her shimmeringly beautiful and rich voice to full effect. Bass Thomas Goerz likewise delivered a nuanced and confident reading, particularly successful in the "Tuba mirum" section of the Dies Irae. Slightly overwhelmed by The Orpheum's treacherous acoustics, tenor Karl-Michael Ebner sang stalwartly, his voice fresh and bright.

Unfortunately, the soloists have too little to sing in this work, and their largely fine contribution did not compensate for the other elements in what at times seemed like a concert more slapped together than thought out.

Perhaps the Trinity Western University Masterworks Choir and the Chamber Choir need to think less about pleasing the vast number of relatives and friends -- out in force as the applause after each movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik made clear -- and serving the music itself both with greater commitment and more polished and practiced skills.

© 2006 JH Stape