The North Carolina Symphony opened the season over the weekend on a note of remembrance. Sharing its season opener with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the program reflected both the melancholy observance and the sense of unified patriotic optimism that followed the tragedy.
As the strings of the North Carolina Symphony began to play Ave verum corpus, K.618 (1791), followed shortly by the voices of the North Carolina Master Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Alfred E. Sturgis, the sound touched the senses so smoothly it was like finally coming into earshot of a sound that plays eternally. The subtlety and simplicity of this short work by Wolfgang A. Mozart made it the perfect both joyful and solemnly meditative opening for the program.
The main event of the evening was Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor, K.626 (1791). The symphony played the 15 dynamic movements of the requiem with an upbeat tempo. After hearing the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle play Mozart’s Requiem last spring, The North Carolina Symphony’s rendition felt downright restrained. This usually dynamic requiem never seemed to climax and instead maintained a fairly even level of intensity throughout.
The enthusiastic and sometimes jubilant voices of the North Carolina Master Chorale were the exception to monotony. Their heads bobbed and their sound, which would have stood equally well alone, played in perfect conjunction as an instrument in the symphony.
Vocalists Dominique Labelle (soprano), Krista River (mezzo-soprano), Richard Clement (tenor), and Christòpheren Nomura (bass) were situated visually to blend with the symphony, which they did beautifully vocally, as well. All the parts, vocal and instrumental, created one unified sound.
In between these two Mozart works, we heard the original composition of North Carolina composer J. Mark Scearce. His work, This Thread for Mezzo-Soprano, Solo Violin and Orchestra (2003), featured Brian Reagin on violin solo, and mezzo-soprano Krista River. The opening violin solo was a stirring hint of the dramatic melodies that would follow. There was no sense of the orchestra holding back in this piece. At one point there would be frenzied fear and chaos, at another, quiet sadness and remembrance. This piece, and the North Carolina Symphony’s performance of it, effectively captured the mixed feelings many American’s have felt since 9-11. The words of Toni Morrison’s poem “The Dead of September 11th“, vocalized by River, might have had a greater dramatic impact with a simple reading against the backdrop of the orchestra. River’s vocal control and emotional commitment were captivating, but the vocals weren’t one with the orchestra. It was challenging to process at times. With Reagin’s violin contributing a melody beyond the orchestra’s, the vocals added an excessive third layer. You can hear Scearce discuss this piece with Frank Stasio on WUNC at http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/9_11_Ten_Years_Later.mp3/view.
Despite the grandness of the program selections , and the theme of remembrance, I left feeling not as moved as I expected to be.