Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 13, 2015

Viennese Choral Spectacular

Springfield Symphony, Springfield, MA
April 11, 2015
by Michael J. Moran

Before this concert of music by three great composers associated with “the inspiring musical city of Vienna,” as SSO Maestro Kevin Rhodes called it in his “Rhodes’ Reflections” column in the program book, Rhodes made an unusual request. He announced his intention to play the two pieces on the first half of the program without a pause between them, and asked for no applause until the second piece had finished, so the works could “play off against each other.” The audience fully complied with his request.

The opening piece was Schubert’s “Unfinished” eighth symphony, the only work on the program without voices. No sooner did the closing notes of the slow second movement fade quietly away in this expansive, deeply felt performance than Rhodes cued the Springfield Symphony Chorus, seated behind the orchestra before the concert, to stand and begin singing Schubert’s Mass No. 2, a work of youthful exuberance by the 18-year-old composer that was given a lively, probing rendition by the orchestra and chorus. Its five short movements also featured distinguished contributions from three soloists: soprano Mary Wilson; tenor William Hite; and baritone David McFerrin.

Intermission was followed by a virtuosic reading of “Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven),” a work of astonishing maturity based on a medieval hymn celebrating the Virgin Mary by an even younger 15-year-old Mozart. Wilson and the chorus each sang in three of its four short movements, easily meeting the music’s frequent technical challenges. 

Nadine Shank
The concert closed with Beethoven’s “Fantasia for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra,” in some ways “an early study for the Ninth Symphony,” as the program book notes, but rarely heard because of its unwieldy performance requirements. With the chorus already on stage and with the SSO’s principal orchestral pianist, Nadine Shank, on hand, Rhodes led a rousing, vibrant account of this engaging piece, which was warmly received by the audience, especially for the power and finesse of Shank’s playing. 

Apart from the absence of texts, which should always be provided for vocal works (printed or inserted in the program, or projected over the stage), this concert was a “spectacular” success.