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CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Sonoma Bach / Friday, November 20, 2015
Sonoma Bach Choir, Live Oak Baroque Orchestra. Robert Worth, Director. Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin

Sonoma Bach Conductor Bob Worth

A STERLING REQUIEM PERFORMANCE IN TRES

by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 20, 2015

Mounting a production of the Mozart D Minor Requiem (K. 626) poses difficulties absent from the usual 50-plus minute performance time. Historical questions abound concerning authorship, placement of musical sections and even the murky commissioning process.

Director Bob Worth moved to solve these difficulties in a Nov. 20 concert in Sonoma’s St. Andrew Presbyterian Church by a unique trifecta. First he conducted the Sonoma Bach Choir and Live Oak Baroque Orchestra in short snippets illustrating the composition. More formerly, he then presented the Requiem with four soloists as Mozart composed the work, abruptly stopped on the death date of Dec. 5, 1791.

Following intermission Mr. Worth conducted the Requiem in its most common format, as completed by Joseph Eybler and Mozart’s associate Franz Süssmayr. Süssmayr’s compositional style and handwriting are quite close to that of Mozart, and the music in both versions unfolds with uncanny similarity.

Acoustics in the white-hued a-frame church had little reverberation and from my seat featured the low string frequencies; with the delightful exception of Elizabeth Blumenstock’s solo violin passages. The orchestra’s standout instrumental sections were the trombones of Richard Van Hassel, Ernie Rideout and Bruce Chrisp, and two basset horns (played by Diane Heffner and Thomas Carrol). Mr. Worth controlled precise attacks and releases all evening and the 46-member Choir sang with power and stylistic penetration. Among the soloists (soprano Dianna Richardson, alto Karen Clark, tenor Kyle Stegall and bass Ben Kazez) Ms. Clark was especially prominent with distinct Latin diction and elegant phrasing.

In the final 50-plus minute Requiem the ensemble’s energy didn’t flag and the understated support of timpanist Kevin Neuhoff and Henry Lebedinsky’s continuo organ were crucial. This is a declamatory work laced with sadness and the four soloists, positioned between the conductor and the audience of 150, were everywhere strong. The pulsating four-chord passages, repeated three times in the Offertorium, were telling. There are short fugues throughout this piece, many leading to lovely descending lines ending in trombone solos (not always together, with Mr. Chrisp the standout) and surging bass and cello playing.

A standing ovation came with the last cutoff and Mr. Worth happily acknowledged selected Orchestra members and his soloists. It was a convincing combination of scholarly presentation and captivating music making.

The multi-faceted Requiem was repeated Nov. 22 in Petaluma’s St. Vincent de Paul church.