On Sunday, May 18 at the Mello Center for the Performing Arts the Santa Cruz Symphony under the direction of charismatic Music Director Daniel Stewart presented an afternoon of beautifully performed sacred music. “The future is now” written on the cover page of the 2013-14 program can now be properly illuminated in neon lights, and well deserved! The program had moving religious overtones and consisted of Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, K. 618 (1781), Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (1965) and Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor, K. 626 (1791). A word of professional praise is well deserved for the marvelous orchestra whose musical, technical and artistic abilities under the keen ear of Maestro Daniel Stewart have been simply awesome! The same can be said for the many hours of excellent preparation of the Cabrillo Symphonic Choir by Director Cheryl Anderson, who herself participated in the Choir.
“A cast of thousands” would be most fitting and appropriate for the 140 members of the Cabrillo Symphonic Choir who crowed the stage and performed with absolute professionalism. As Assistant Director of the Metropolitan Opera, Maestro Stewart has made a valuable connection by including fresh Metropolitan Opera talent as heard in the Mozart Requiem Mass.
Ave Verum Corpus is a short Eucharistic motet composed in the last years of Mozart’s life. It was composed as somewhat of a payment to a friend Anton Stoll, in much the same way Pablo Picasso gave away valuable sketches. This beautiful work began with somber, peaceful expression that immediately captured the intended emotional solemnity to the very last note. As in many of Bernstein’s works the Chichester Psalms features the harp, which opened this piece. The contrast between the textural background and sharp pizzicato-percussive gestures was well controlled and performed. Special acknowledgement to trombonist Michael Cushing, harpists Randall Pratt and Meredith Clark and bassoonist Jane Orzel for their artistic solo contributions in the performed works. Most impressive was the roll of young boy soprano Daniel Ostrom, who sat patiently waiting for his entrance. Daniel performed beautifully as if he too were part of the superb quartet of Met Opera soloists featured in the Requiem. Bravo young man!
The soloists in the Mozart Requiem were Lei Xu, soprano; Renee Tatum, mezzo-soprano; Mario Chang, tenor and Ryan Speedo Green, Baritone. All four vocalists performed with wonderful skill in all registers while Maestro Stewart maintained an excellent sense of dynamic balance during the performance. The various pairings of soprano-mezzo soprano duets, tenor-baritone and the quartet together was artistically done and with excellent dynamic balance between them and the orchestra. The final phrase of the Lux aeterna was perfectly tapered and vanished into the silence of the capacity-filled concert hall.
Bravo Maestro Stewart, Santa Cruz County Symphony, Cheryl Anderson, Cabrillo Symphonic Choir and all soloists for an awesome musical experience!