As usual, concerts by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra & Baroque Chorus are exercises in creative programming. Their latest (premiered last night, running until the weekend, and announced as completely sold out) isn’t simply a presentation of the Mozart Requiem, but a study of the composer’s psychology.
They seemed to be asking us how to frame this work, how to understand Mozart’s musical journey. Conductor Ivars Taurins & the Tafelmusik Chamber choir presented it in context with Mozart’s influences. He reputedly played a lot of JS Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier (a work supposedly to be found open on any given day, on his keyboard). And so we’re led to make connections to the contrapuntal writing in the Reqiuem.
We were also told that while the young Mozart had written some religious works, such works were infrequent once he came to Vienna.
The first half was an intriguing experiment, one that Taurins was honest enough to explain to us, whereby they’d originally thought to alternate Bach family motets with orchestrated fugues; but opted instead to cluster the fugues together, followed by the pious choral works.
The first half closed with a shimmering reading of the familiar Ave Verum Corpus.
In the second half we heard the Requiem. I found myself feeling the edginess of the Requiem, which may not have been what was intended. I did not see the work arising within the context of the opening works, whose genuine piety is in contrast to the theatricality of Mozart’s writing. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe Mozart was unable to finish the work because he had writer’s block, a lack of connection to the text. Much as I love parts of the Requiem (the first half much more so than the latter portion: whose authorship is not so clear to me), I feel a closer connection to the operas written in Mozart’s last year than anything religious or contrapuntal.
I feel pleased that Tafelmusik and I seem to be on a similar wavelength, exploring musical journeys (as I have been doing the past few weeks, taking us from Troyens to Tristan, and soon on to Parsifal). I realize now just how fortunate we are in Toronto, currently exploring Mozart’s last year.
La Clemenza di Tito closes tonight at the COC. Mozart’s Requiem is currently being presented by Tafelmusik. And in a few short weeks Tafelmusik will collaborate with Opera Atelier to bring us the other opera of Mozart’s last year, namely The Magic Flute. It’s a remarkable fluke, one that I am determined to explore & enjoy.
I couldn’t help hearing connections, by the way. Listen to Sesto’s “parto, parto” with its big intervals in the vocal line (so typical of opera seria), and the clarinet.
Now listen to the bass soloist’s “tuba mirum” from the Requiem.
I was struck by this and other parallels, thinking of how daringly theatrical Mozart was in his composition.
Tafelmusik Baroque Choir, led by Ivars Taurins, get completely inside this music, particularly the Mozart. Taurins kept everything moving at a brisk pace, conducting with more modest gestures than what we used in his recent Messiah, but every bit as genuine.
Nathalie Paulin was especially spirited in her delivery of the soprano part, although the quartet (including Laura Pudwell, Lawrence Wiliford and Nathaniel Watson) were solid throughout.
We’re very lucky in Toronto. I felt a small-town innocence to the presentation that belies the world-wide reputation this ensemble enjoys. From the energy of the conductor & orchestra, to the joyful reception from the audience it’s clear that there’s a huge appetite for this music in our city, and an appreciation for our artists.