Review: Mozart's Requiem

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 July, 2014, 11:20am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 July, 2014, 11:20am

Mozart's Requiem
Hong Kong Sinfonietta
HK City Hall Concert Hall
Reviewed: July 26

After more than two centuries, Mozart's Requiem still deeply engrosses audiences, and this Hong Kong Sinfonietta concert was no exception. The Austrian composer took on the Requiem commission for a man who then claimed it as his own composition. This tells a tale of desperation for ducats, not to mention lack of ego. Mozart died before finishing it, but his DNA is strong enough to give the music matchless power.

The themes are few, short and striking, and the rhythm is taut and driving. Mozart creates towering masses of sound with overlapping voices. At other times, the expression is personal: he captures the feeling of a voice about to break into tears.

Conductor Rolf Beck had a warm rapport with the orchestra and the SingFest 2014 Youth Chorus. They lacked the richness of mature voices, but made up for it with freshness and vigour. They were well-prepared in diction and dynamics. Their tone was lovely and in tune, although the sopranos were tense at times on the top notes. The balance was excellent throughout; I had no trouble hearing every line from orchestra, soloists and choir, a significant pleasure.

The orchestral introduction was wonderful, and bravo to the bassoon and clarinet players, who played the enchanted, introspective opening to perfection. The restless When the Accursed Have Been Confounded has a hypnotic, timeless feeling, well controlled by the orchestra and Beck.

The soloists were a treat. Soprano Yuki Ip filled the hall with glowing high notes. Once or twice Beck gestured for her to sing more softly, but no need, as she was never overpowering. Apollo Wong, bass, had a rich, dark but clear tone in his impressive Tuba Mirum solo. Alto Carol Lin's tone was a bit dry and inflexible but she gave solid support in the ensembles.

Mendelssohn's Three Psalms, Op 78, were tastefully executed and beautiful in every line, but the intensity paled in comparison with the Requiem.

Alexis Aldrich