Saturday night’s performance of Mozart’s legendary Requiem was well attended, and thoroughly enjoyable. Presented by ArteMusica, founded in 2011, making them one of the newer kids on a very busy SoCal concert block. The masterwork was performed with choir, orchestra and soloists, all led by Maestro Ermanno Zotti, to a very enthusiastic crowd who arrived early to jovially cozy up in their seats on the church’s long pews.
Sensing outbursts of interactive appreciation, the organization’s president wisely asked the crowd to refrain from applauding between movements, for the benefit of the live recording in progress. This is common enough, but she managed to ask in both English and prepared Italian — quite understandably, so I’m told. This group knows ad respects their fans, including the large contingency invited through the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, not the least due to the fact that Maestro Zotti is himself a native of northern Italy.
The entire evening was well-planned and nicely executed. The performance was beautiful, with a strong (if often overpowering) orchestra and sizable choir. Of course, with many Listers in the chorus and comprising most of the soloists, this review cannot be entirely unbiased… and there was much to appreciate.
While the tenor section was a little ragged at several points (the concert was accomplished without many rehearsals), the overall sound was rich and worthy of this great piece of music. The sopranos, in particular, shone with clear, accurate high notes enviable by many professional choirs the world over. A solid alto section served to anchor several trickier sections, and florid runs were generally smooth and consistent.
The soloists were stretched a bit by the sheer volume of the instruments, but came together in many moments of lovely, cohesive ensemble. Soprano Yolanta Tensor possesses a shimmering, elegant tone in the upper register, and if all goes well, her young instrument should grow into the repertoire even more beautifully. E. Scott Levin is a baritone whose ubiquitous presence in the Southland is fully explained by a rich, powerful tone and compelling musicality that seem to improve with each new hearing. Christa Stevens got a chance to show off her range as the alto soloist. Although she appears most often as a soprano, she handled the task well, with a mellow sound and clear grasp of the style. Finally, tenor Andrew Bennett‘s smooth, lyrical sound seems made for Mozart.
As the Requiem came to an emotional and satisfying finish, Maestro Zotti did something highly unusual: after waiting out the standing ovation and waving those racing for the door back to their seats, he announced that the entire ensemble would repeat the last movement, the Communio, “to underline Mozart’s message of eternal hope.” While the idea is somewhat endearing the encore wasn’t necessary: the audience was fidgeting, ready to move on, or perhaps acutely aware that the choir had not yet budged from their standing positions on the risers. But even without that distracting feat of stamina, Mozart simply doesn’t need underlining. While the enore did exhibit a slightly tighter delivery of the movement, the overall result was a bit anti-climactic.
This unusual decision aside, it was a very enjoyable evening. The venue, St. Monica’s church in Santa Monica, is a large opulent structure of surprising warmth. The large Corinthian columns posed a visibility problem for many who failed to arrive more than twenty or thirty minutes early, but the acoustics were such that no one really seemed to mind. The crowd filtered into the generous expanse of courtyard after the concert, to feast on a lavish reception provided by Jean Cordero. As the reception commenced, it was a particular to hear so many members of the choir rave about the maestro, often saying how much they enjoyed working with him. ArteMusica is clearly founded on the pure joy of making music, and that joy comes through, no translation required. This is only the organization’s third concert, but we’re told that more are in the works. Here’s looking forward to the next installment.