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Redlands Symphony Orchestra's all-Mozart concert draws sold-out crowd

04/08/13 • by Betty Tyler • The Redlands Daily Facts

If you are one of the lucky ones who had a ticket to Saturday night's sold-out Redlands Symphony Orchestra concert, you don't need me to tell you it was a magnificent evening of Mozart in the University of Redlands Memorial Chapel.

Whether you were there or not, I will tell you that I felt blessed by the music - as Jon Robertson, the Redlands Symphony's 30-year music director, said he believed the audience would be.

The concert was the finale of the symphony's 2012-13 season, Robertson's 30th anniversary year as conductor and music director. And for the season finale, Robertson chose two works from the last year of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's short life, the Clarinet Concerto in A major and the Requiem, which Mozart did not live long enough to complete.

Either one would have been a treat. Both in one concert made for a very full cup of the elixir of Mozart.

Mozart, who lived from Jan. 27, 1756, to Dec. 5, 1791 (do the arithmetic; he didn't make it to his 36th birthday), was a musical genius. In his preconcert remarks, Robertson said, as he has said before, that Mozart didn't compose music, he took dictation - the music simply flowed out of him.

And that music is not some dry, technically perfect but emotionally empty thing displayed under glass in a museum. It is living, breathing, playful and profound music that still flows through musicians and into the hearts and souls of people who hear it.

At least that's what happens when it flows through the right musicians - and that's certainly what happened Saturday night.

The concert began with the Clarinet Concerto, with Kathryn Nevin, the Redlands Symphony's principal clarinetist, as soloist.

I may have said before that the clarinet is not my favorite instrument. But the way Nevin played in the Mozart concerto could make me fall in love with the clarinet. Her tone was rich, haunting and altogether beautiful.

And she played every nuance, every poignant, lilting Mozart melody straight into our hearts.

Robertson said in his preconcert remarks that Mozart's Clarinet Concerto is not only one of the greatest clarinet concertos, but is one of the greatest concertos for any instrument.

That greatness doesn't come from the music shouting pompously. Genius doesn't shout about itself; it simply is.

And Mozart's genius shone clearly through Saturday's performance by Nevin and the Redlands Symphony.

After intermission, the stage filled up with a choir of about 150 voices to sing the Mozart Requiem.

As the choir members file in, I must disclose that I am a member of the Community Chorus of Redlands and Ensemble XXI, two of the four choirs that combined to sing the Requiem. I temporarily dropped out of both groups in the last couple months because I was not going to sing the Mozart Requiem, but I have a long history with the Community Chorus and a few years' history with Ensemble XXI, both directed by Jeffrey Rickard, who retired from the University of Redlands in 2008.

As a member of the Community Chorus, I have sung the Mozart Requiem at least twice, and I sat in on the first few weeks of rehearsals for Saturday's performance.

So when it comes to Saturday night's choir, I am not a completely uninvolved observer.

The other two choirs in the Mozart chorus were the University of Redlands Chapel Singers, directed by Nicholle Andrews, and the University of Redlands Madrigal Singers, directed by Joseph Modica.

Based on experience, I would expect a choir prepared by Rickard, Andrews and Modica to sound good. My expectation was met and then some.

The choral sound throughout the Requiem was not just the sound of a large choir, but it was a rich, well-blended and clear sound that was a joy to hear.

And the choir was easily heard amid the orchestral sound, a balance that's not always achieved in performances by choirs and orchestras.

Of course, I couldn't help mentally singing the alto part of some of the choruses as I listened, but I also enjoyed hearing how all the choral parts worked together and played off each other. That's something you don't hear as well when you're part of the choir.

I'll pull my attention away from the choir now and get back to the Requiem itself. As anyone who has watched the movie "Amadeus" knows, Mozart died before he was able to finish the Requiem. There is at least that much truth in the film, but don't believe some of the other details, especially the Salieri skulduggery.

Mozart had written almost all of the first two movements at the time of his death, according to James Keays' program notes, and left the other movements in sketch form. One of Mozart's students, Franz Suessmayr, filled in the sketches and completed the Requiem.

In his preconcert remarks, Robertson said Suessmayr wasn't one of the most brilliant of Mozart's students, but he said that might be why Suessmayr's completion of Mozart's Requiem works.

Robertson said Suessmayr recognized his limits and didn't try to outdo Mozart, as some others who wrote completions of the Requiem did, but kept it simple and tried to follow what he thought Mozart would have done.

So the Requiem is not literally pure Mozart, but it is still Mozart and is inspiring and beautiful music to sing and to listen to.

And the singing includes four soloists who deserve as much credit as the orchestra and choir. Saturday's soloists were Katrina Herrera, soprano; Daniela Nuzzoli, mezzo-soprano; Raul Hernandez, tenor; and Wayne Shepperd, bass. Each has a rich, strong voice alone, and each blended seamlessly with the others in duet and quartet passages.

They, too, were a joy to hear, though joy may not be quite the right word to use about a requiem.

Mozart's Requiem, a setting of the Latin Mass for the dead, is serious music, not a playful romp, but it is not a depressing dirge. Mozart himself was dying as he wrote the Requiem, but he infused his unfinished work with the beauty and life that is in all his music.

Though Mozart's Requiem is a Mass for the dead, there is a healing power in it that can flow right into your soul. I know it flowed into mine Saturday night.

The healing beauty of Mozart's Requiem was especially appropriate for Saturday's concert, which was presented in memory of Clara Cecelia "Cece" Svenson, who died in February 2012 at the age of 9. Her father, Art Svenson, is a violinist with the Redlands Symphony and professor of government at the University of Redlands.

There was also mention in Saturday's program of the death last month of Lois Lauer, a longtime supporter of the Redlands Symphony and many other local organizations, with a list of those who had made gifts to the symphony in her honor.

Those gifts will help the Redlands Symphony continue to bring the healing power of music to the community.


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