Compelling Fluidity in Two Sacred Works

United StatesUnited States Durufle, Haydn: Vanessa Vasquez (soprano), Abigail Fischer (mezzo-soprano), Zach Borichevsky (tenor), Sava Vemic (bass), New York Choral Society and Orchestra / David Hayes (music director), David Ralph (organ). Carnegie Hall, New York City, 6.2.2017. (DS)

Durufle – Requiem, Op.9

Haydn – Missa in anguistiis in D minor (“Lord Nelson” Mass)

As choral concerts go, the New York Choral Society’s Carnegie Hall performance stood out in programming and artistry. The hundred-plus-member chorus offered skillfully balanced interpretations of a twentieth-century requiem with an eighteenth-century mass under the direction of David Hayes.

In Maurice Durufle’s Requiem, chorus, orchestra, and organist David Ralph unveiled the composer’s compelling mix of contrapuntal elements of Gregorian chant, combined with wafting gestures of turn-of-the century French orchestral music. Highlights included a bold, sonorous Kyrie chant, and the middle movement Pie Jesu, which featured mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer. Fischer’s duet with principal cellist David Heiss had the natural effect of two conversing friends, and stood out as an intimate spiritual moment in the greater landscape.

After intermission, the ensemble’s fluidity in Haydn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass (musicologists point to no connection between the composer and any maritime inspiration) surpassed their work in the Durufle. The orchestra, especially, showed finesse, precision, and character. A quartet of soloists joined the choir, including two stellar debuts by soprano Vanessa Vasquez and tenor Zach Borichevsky. Along with Fischer and bass Sava Vemic, the four soared to their best in the Agnus Dei, creating a subtle yet unrestrained reach toward the unearthly beauty that such a piece affords.

Hayes led both the Requiem and Mass to well-crafted endings. His ensemble work with the chorus matured even as the two works progressed, exuding confidence and excitement. The Durufle, especially, left a refined sense of mellow clarity in its wake. The Mass departed brilliantly, with a fusion of singers and instruments in a bright, ever-rising nobis pacem.

Daniele Sahr

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