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Mozart in Review


Review: Leeds Festival Chorus/Northern Sinfonia; Leeds Town Hall January 29 2011.

Performance: Mozart: Great Mass in C minor/Symphony No 40 in G minor.

MOZART enthusiasts have been frustrated for years as to how and why the great composer should have left his Great Mass in C Minor (K427) unfinished, especially as it was written to celebrate his marriage to Constanze.

But those listening to Leeds Festival Chorus/Northern Sinfonia's powerful performance at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday (Jan 29) could have had no such frustrations, both orchestra and chorus producing no better start to 2011.

Mozart left a number of his works incomplete, much to the chagrin of fans of the maestro, and given there was no commission or stimulus for the Mass, other than it seems his marriage in 1782, and impending fatherhood, the soaring mastery of the work makes its lack of consummation all the more a source of vexed fascination.

Mozart composed the work around August 1782 (the time of his marriage) and in writing to his father in Salzburg in Jan 1783 reported it to be 'half-complete'. After the birth of his first son, who was left to the care of a wet nurse, the pair visited his father Leopold, and parts of the mass were performed in Salzburg, with Constanze taking one of the solo roles.

On returning to Vienna, however, the couple found the child, a boy, perhaps not surprisingly, had died. More children were to follow, but some have suggested the loss of the first born might have blunted Mozart's will to finish the work.

Whatever the reason, the powerful piece could have had no better ambassadors than the remarkable Elizabeth Watts and Sophie Bevan as soprano solos.

Flanked by tenor Nicholas Mulroy and Keighley's bass-baritone Neil Baker, Ms Watts and Bevan , brought, what might have been, a little glimpse of Constanze in the Salzburg night, to the wintry evening.

Northern Sinfonia, orchestra at The Sage Gateshead, both in the accompanying performance of the uplifting Symphony No 40 in G Minor and the Great Mass demonstrated the exhilarating confidence of a fresh thinking and versatile orchestra. They have also performed with the Pet Shop Boys and Sting away from the classical mainstream.

Under the eye of the universally respected and immensely likeable conductor Simon Wright, Leeds Festival Chorus, continues to be an inspirational emblem of appeal for choral lovers in the county and on the strength of this performance alone, long may it be so.

Martin Hickes