CityMusic Cleveland ends 10th anniversary with transporting account of Schubert Mass (review)
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer, May 15, 2014
The profoundest of subjects. The lightest, most graceful of performances.
Such were the contrasting joys of Schubert's Mass No. 6 Wednesday. As CityMusic Cleveland played and Quire Cleveland sang, ears were transported and souls found new anchors.
Rare as it is to encounter Schubert's church music, rarer still was it to hear a performance of that repertoire like the one that served as CityMusic's season finale at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights.
Agile, clear, richly expressive: the reading evinced every relevant virtue. Music director Avner Dorman, conducting one of Schubert's latest and greatest works, couldn't have asked for more.
And yet he got it. As if in response to the score's calls on divine power, the skies Wednesday night put on a show of lightning and thunder nearly as impressive as Schubert's music.
But not even stormy weather rivaled Quire Cleveland at the top of its game, illuminating tricky counterpoint and sustaining lyricism across swift, wordy expanses. All throughout the Mass, in fact, the singers proved a disciplined, experienced ensemble, capable of applying any color to any passage.
Neither could the group have been any more cohesive. So intimate and lyrical was its collective performance at times, one almost could have mistaken certain phrases for one voice interpreting one of Schubert's 600-plus art songs.
The orchestra under Dorman was similarly effective. One conspicuous early entrance aside, the conductor drew from the group a buoyant, expressive reading. Much as a gifted piano accompanist knows when to support and when to lead, so did Dorman's ensemble shift fluidly between supportive and commanding roles.
But the greatest delights were surely the five vocal soloists, who not only handled their own parts with distinction but also seemed made for each other musically. In the Benedictus and parts of the Credo, the voices of soprano Stacey Mastrian, mezzo-soprano Sarah Beaty, tenors Joshua Blue and Seth Nachimson, and bass Joseph Trumbo fused into a single, multi-faceted and glorious instrument.
So did the evening with another contrast. Just as the weather outside turned frightful, CityMusic and its many guests closed the group's 10th anniversary season with an immense delight: a radiant, resounding call for peace.