Try the new FT.com

June 29, 2011 6:06 pm

Le Cercle de l’Harmonie, Barbican, London

  • Share
  • Print
  • Clip
  • Gift Article
  • Comments

For quite a few years, the Barbican used to fill the hottest weeks of summer with its “Mostly Mozart” series, an idea borrowed from Lincoln Center in New York. The London series has gone now, taking the end-of-season fireworks display over the Barbican lake with it, but this all-Mozart concert by Le Cercle de l’Harmonie stood as a lone reminder.

The French period-instrument ensemble was joined by the chamber choir Les Eléments to perform two sacred works for the season’s final classical music event: the Vesperae solennes de confessore, K.339, and the C Minor Mass, K.427, which would surely have been the greatest of all of Mozart’s choral works if only he had finished it.

The earlier work dates from the unhappy period when Mozart was in service to Prince Archbishop Colloredo in Salzburg. The composer’s own description of how he felt about life in Salzburg at that time is not printable in a respectable newspaper, and quite a bit of the music he composed there, especially the masses, sound like cool, professional assignments. What makes the Vesperae solennes de confessore different is the beautiful “Laudate Dominum” at the end, where Sally Matthews’ soprano eloquently soared.

The C Minor Mass is another matter. Unfinished though it is, the remaining torso is of Apollonian high-minded dignity. Choruses inspired by the Baroque grandeur of Bach and Handel are matched with solos of radiant Classical simplicity. Throughout the evening, the well-balanced choir and nimble musicians were conducted by Jérémie Rhorer in a graceful style. But the kind of performance that had seemed satisfying in the earlier work fell short in the C Minor Mass: too mild and inconsequential by half.

The shining source of inspiration here was again Matthews, who sang the soprano solos with a burning intensity that was out of the ordinary. The rest of the solo quartet – Ann Hallenberg’s warm mezzo, tenor Rainer Trost and bass Nahuel Di Pierro – blended in well enough, leaving Matthews to seal the closing performance of the Barbican season with her radiant singing of the “Et Incarnatus Est”, Mozart’s most heavenly single piece of sacred music.

3 stars

www.barbican.org.uk

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

  • Share
  • Print
  • Clip
  • Gift Article
  • Comments
SHARE THIS QUOTE