Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mozart Requiem at First Congregational Church of LA

First Congregational Church of Los Angeles

By Douglas Neslund

First Congregational Church of Los Angeles was filled Friday night to hear Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s immortal Requiem in D minor, which was completed by Xaver Süßmayr after Mozart's death. The conductor, Daniel Suk, organized the Dream Orchestra, an assemblage of primarily professional instrumentalists and 22 members of “Opera Chorus of Los Angeles,” who were joined by the young scholars of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts Choir. The young people were gifted an opportunity to sing one of the true gems of all music alongside the professionals.

Soloists were soprano Golda Zahra Berkman, mezzo-soprano Cassandra Zoé Velasco, tenor Vladimir Dmitruk, and bass Patrick Blackwell. As a quartet, they were uneven and unblended. Ms. Berkman is but 15 years of age and on this occasion suffered ongoing pitch problems. Mr. Dmitruk spent most of his solo opportunities on the loud side of moderato. Ms. Velasco and Mr. Blackwell sang well but in the disconnected manner of singers who probably had not much experience singing together as a musical unit. John St. Marie prepared the combined choruses.

Daniel Suk and his Dream Orchestra
The Dream Orchestra, with Minh Nguyen playing the church's iconic pipe organ, were excellent as pros would be expected to be, but were rarely called upon to play softer than mezzoforte, and often much louder. When the assembled participants were asked to maximize their collective forces,  the result was deafening. Inasmuch as the writer sat near the front, it is possible that those sitting in the back of the church might have needed the extra musical volume due to acoustical considerations.

That said, this was not a concert concerned with nuance, phrase shaping, subtlety, or acknowledgement of historical performance practice. One could, however, find moments of Mozartean beauty. But chances for serenity or reflection offered in movements such as the Lacrimosa, were missed.

One wishes, in semipro events like this, that funding for two more rehearsals could have been found to elevate the performance to its maximum potential. Without a doubt, Mr. Suk would agree.

The enthusiastic audience was distractingly clap-happy, even in brief pauses within a movement.

The concert coincided with the 46th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I’ve got a dream” speech, a portion of which was declaimed by Teryne Chatman. An additional dedication at the death of Conductor Emeritus of the Los Angeles Master Chorale Paul Salamunovich was graciously given. Malotte’s “Lord’s Prayer,” in a choral-instrumental arrangement, followed the Requiem in something of an odd pairing, and which also served as an encore, bringing the festive evening to a close. 

Most of the costs for the event, including a sumptuous reception afterward, were generously paid for by Ms. Berkman’s parents, Jilla and Shallom Berkman, owners of Urth Caffé.


Photo of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles from Internet sources
Photo of Daniel Suk and the Dream Orchestra by San Marino Tribune, used by permission

No comments: