Manuscript of Mass in C minor.
  • Manuscript of Mass in C minor.
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W. A. Mozart - Mass In C Minor; K 427, Kyrie

Notice no big "k" here.

Notice no big "k" here.

Saturday night’s Mainly Mozart concert was a wonderful experience of musicology. Conductor Michael Francis spoke before each piece instead of having a printed “Maestro’s Notes” in the program. This is the type of approach which will work in San Diego. I’m not sure about other cities but this type of engagement will win in San Diego.

Here’s why: I’ve consistently heard from people all over the country that San Diego is one of the most relaxed cities with some of the nicest people. Austin sneaks in there, as does Seattle and Portland. (Of course, Austin is full of San Diegans who wanted a bigger house.)

When a conductor speaks to the nice folks of San Diego, we love it. We feel like we’ve made a new friend and we would do anything for a friend — except maybe show up on time.

The repertoire on the program also needed some justification, so it’s a good thing we had a little chat with the conductor beforehand. The concert began with a piece by Stravinsky based on Bach and a piece by Webern based on Bach. Without the introduction by Francis, these pieces could have fallen flat.

Both pieces were conceptualizations and therefore subject to the strength or weakness of the concept they were based upon. The music was interesting and almost impossibly difficult, but the orchestra made it sound effortless.

The Mozart Mass in C minor was the main event at this concert. This puts me in a tough spot. I might just stop reviewing concerts that have chorus and/or soloists. Why? That topic has a post unto itself which will include an extensive discussion of the soloist. I’m sure you can hardly wait.

I’ve never heard the San Diego Master Chorale sound better, but can we take a break from the explosive “k” at the start of every mass? (This also deserves its own post. I’m doing my best to stay on topic here instead of careening off into a polemic about the state of vocal music.)

The volume of the chorus was impressive and matched well with the orchestra.

Again, Maestro Francis’ talk at the top of the piece was wonderful. He emphasized the direction Mozart was going toward opera and away from church music. I might add it was a direction that the rest of the 18th and 19th Centuries would continue in. He also mentioned the connection to Bach, just as in the first two pieces of the concert.

With this in mind, the Domine Deus and Credo sounded particularly Bach-ish to me for the first time. Discovery during a concert is always a good thing.

The performance had an air of victory about it and there was a sense of occasion. Jezzez. I'm struggling here. When a writer uses phrases such as "sense of occasion," it's a sign that all is not well--or they're lazy.

The concert was a success. It wasn't the overpowering dominating experience I've come to associate with the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra. The main reason for that was the vocals. I'm sorry to say it, but I'll go ahead and be the jerk here.

I do not pretend to be objective because I think it's a fallacy. The chorus and soloists were simply nowhere close to the level of the orchestra. It's an issue that will be difficult for Mainly Mozart to figure out.

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