Sounds of Faith, Starting at a Distance and Coming Closer and Stronger – New York Times – October 29, 2005

Classical Music Review
“Sounds of Faith, Starting at a Distance and Coming Closer and Stronger”


Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus,” chaste and touching, followed by Arvo Pärt’s “Fratres,” sparse and ascetic, served as quiet introductions to the Mozart Requiem on Thursday night at Carnegie Hall. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s played. Donald Runnicles conducted. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Chorus sang splendidly. There were also four well-matched vocal soloists.

Running the three pieces together – uninterrupted by applause and separated only by general throat clearing and some reseating of orchestra members – did reasonably well at sustaining a mood. It also solved the problem of how to present the Requiem on a normal one-and-a-half-to-two-hour concert program otherwise divided by an intermission.

Given the quality of the playing and singing, the practical solutions were of minor interest. I was very taken by the Atlanta singers, prepared by Norman Mackenzie, whose members I am sure are amateur or semiprofessional at best. Beautifully trained and absolutely focused, they offered in particular a soprano section singing with a purity unmuddied by vibrato and individual excess.

The St. Luke’s players played handsomely as a full orchestra and just as well as an all-cello octet in the Arvo Pärt piece. “Fratres” repeats an expanding and contracting, chantlike theme. The musical term lontano describes its methodology: music beginning at a distance and becoming nearer and stronger. What a pleasure it was, to hear an ensemble so mutually aware and free of competitiveness.