“The Mozart’s Requiem” Music of the Baroque reviewed by Julia W. Rath

By Julia W. Rath, Around the Town Chicago
September 18, 2023

A flawless performance of Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor, K 626, plus Bach’s Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243, enthralled the audience at Sunday night’s concert of the Music of the Baroque orchestra and chorus. Led by conductor and music director Dame Jane Glover and chorus director Andrew Megill, the program featured four internationally renowned operatic soloists: Susanna Phillips (soprano), Paula Murrihy (mezzo-soprano), Miles Mykkanen (tenor), and Michael Sumuel (bass-baritone). Phillips’ delicate but vibrant sound met up Murrihy’s versatile vocal range from soprano to alto. At the same time, Mykkanen’s and Sumuel’s strong voices, with their straightforward effortlessness, completed the circle. Not only did all four vocalists blend together with captivating ease, but the combination of chorus and orchestra adds a fervor that cannot be excelled! The music is crisp in a one-of-a-kind program whose intensity and sacredness gave rise to a rousing standing ovation at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts.

In the Bach Magnificat, which began the program, we hear the beautiful oboe and bassoon duo with repeating melodies and countermelodies, performed by Anne Bach and William Buchman, which accompanies Phillips’ aria. The gorgeous double bass solo by Collins Trier subsequently accompanies Sumuel’s aria. The combination of trumpets (Barbara Butler, Tage Larsen, and Justin Kohan) and timpani (Douglas Waddell) accompanying the chorus is also notable. But it is the refined flute duet by Mary Stolper and Alyce Johnson that could not have been any better! We closely note that as the music builds throughout, the end pulls out all the stops.

Then there are the dramatic points of the Mozart Requiem, of which there are many! We hear the voices build several times moving from bass to tenor to alto to soprano to finally having all four soloists perform at the same moment, followed shortly by the chorus’s proclamations and lamentations. The power of the chorus cannot be excelled in this rendition! I found it interesting that in one of the sections, the Latin used the word “tuba”, which was translated into “trumpet” in English; but the musical instrument ultimately featured was the trombone, in a marvelous solo by Felix Regalado. Notably, the basset horn duets by Zachary Good and Wagner Campos are exceptional! And the repetition from the top is dramatically and sorrowfully done.

Captions translated from the original Latin into English worked very well for this program and were prominently displayed over the orchestra and chorus.

Finally, a note to the reader: Mozart had not yet completed his Requiem at the time of his death, and it was Austrian composer and conductor Franz Xaver Süssmayr who finished the composition. In an interesting twist of fate, Mozart’s colleague (and likely rival) Antonio Salieri probably conducted its premiere. Later Salieri was quoted as saying that “the Requiem was the work of a dissipated man who, through music, had found his way to eternity.”

This is the Music of the Baroque’s 53rd season. Today’s program, sponsored by The Negaunee Foundation, was no doubt yet another inspired concert! A true high mark to cap off an early fall Sunday evening!

“The Mozart Requiem” was performed at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie, on Sunday, September 17, 2023. This is followed by a performance on Monday, September 18, 2023 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Avenue, in Chicago. Curtain time for both performances: 7:30 p.m