Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 5, 2013

Mozart & Beethoven

Springfield Symphony, Springfield, MA
May 4, 2013
by Michael J. Moran

Springfield Symphony Orchestra Music Director Kevin Rhodes recently told the Springfield Republican that he hoped "the path [from Mozart's Requiem to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony] would be a rewarding one worthy of a season's grand finale." The concert of both works, which he led to close the orchestra's 69th anniversary season, fulfilled that hope resoundingly.   

The high drama of this Requiem performance was clear from the solemn first notes of the opening Introit movement. Momentum built to an urgent level in the Kyrie, to moments of terror in the Dies Irae, and to shattering power in the Rex Tremendae. There was moving tenderness in the Lacrimosa and Offertorium sections, and playful abandon in the joyous Sanctus. The orchestra, especially the brass and woodwinds, played with sensitivity and precision throughout.    

The Springfield Symphony Chorus sang almost without a break in the Requiem, and their work displayed consistent enthusiasm and unanimity of phrasing. All four vocal soloists made distinguished contributions, from the sweet-voiced soprano, Monica Yunus, to the warm tenor, Eric Ashcraft, the bracing mezzo-soprano, Stacey Rishoi, and the penetrating bass, Gustav Andreassen. The contrasting timbres of their voices produced an ideal blend in the frequent passages when all four sang together.  

Though some audience members would have known the Requiem text, newcomers at this well-attended event might have felt more engaged if a printed text and translation had been included in the program book and/or projected above the stage.

Returning from intermission, the audience was greeted by probably the four most familiar notes in all of classical music as an inspired account of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony got off to a thrilling start. As he had done in the Mozart, Rhodes deftly balanced the forward thrust and drama of the outer movements with passages of almost chamber-like intimacy in the inner ones.

In pre-concert remarks, season sponsor MassMutual spokesman and incoming SSO President John Chandler said that retiring SSO horn player Thomas Haunton had told him that the "trust and mutual respect" the orchestra's members show each other give the SSO a special excellence. Those qualities were everywhere in evidence at this season's closer.