Columbus Symphony and Chorus: Hip range of musical styles makes for impressive performance
By Jennifer Hambrick for The Columbus Dispatch
A young work for two orchestras – “one live, one dead” – met up with a timeless setting of the ancient Catholic Mass for the Dead last night in the Ohio Theatre.
Columbus Symphony Orchestra music director Rossen Milanov led the orchestra, the Columbus Symphony Chorus and vocal soloists in dynamic performances of Auditorium for orchestra and electronics by contemporary composer Mason Bates and Mozart’s Requiem.
Bates describes his Auditorium as “essentially a work for two orchestras – one live, one dead.” The Columbus Symphony – the “live” orchestra – performed, in the manner of the two contrasting instrumental groups of a baroque concerto grosso, with or against the “dead” orchestra of electronic tracks of pre-recorded audio, which featured sounds as disparate as baroque harpsichord figuration, synthesized strings and digital beeping. Auditorium unfolds as a romp through an orchestra concert and through an impressive, if selfconsciously hip range of musical styles. Beginning with the sound of a solo oboe tuning the orchestra’s strings, the piece moves swiftly from implied unity to its opposite in dissonances that set the stage texturally for the entrance of the electronics.
Over the course of the piece, Milanov led the Columbus Symphony in tight ensemble with the electronics through passages redolent of electronic dance music, bebop and late 20th-century American film music. Auditorium has enough truly beautiful and wondrous moments to make it fascinating and enjoyable on any number of levels.
The piece that many come to know as Mozart’s Requiem was commenced by Mozart but completed after Mozart’s death by Mozart’s student Franz Suessmayr. Regardless of the work’s attribution, its music is sublime, and last night’s performance did great service to this timeless score.
The opening woodwind lines of the Introit magically tapped the vein of sorrow and supplication for which the text begs. The chorus was nicely balanced within itself. Soprano Alexandra Nowakowski delivered the first of a number of beautifully sung solos. The chorus shimmered through the fugue of the Kyrie section and turned intense at the beginning of the Dies Irae (“Day of Wrath”). A tentative trombone solo at the beginning of the Tuba Mirum somewhat overpowered bass-baritone soloist Adam Cioffari. Later in the movement, Nowakowski, mezzo-soprano Hannah Ludwig and tenor Roy Hage delivered beautiful solos and joined Cioffari in a lovely quartet. Other highlights include the vocal quartet in the Recordare, the fine vocal solos in the Benedictus and the sweet sound of the chorus in the most heartbreaking movement Mozart never wrote – the Lacrimosa.
Milanov led the orchestra and chorus through the Lux aeterna’s concluding fugue and straight into enthusiastic applause, which became a standing ovation when the soloists stood to be acknowledged.
The next performance is tonight at 8 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre.