KVT – A Missa Brevis to Thrill the Soul

Posted on Tuesday 23 Oct - 2012

KVT-2012

KVT really gets into Mozart and coronations

It’s the time of the year when the Hoa Sua trees bloom with their exquisite white flowers and perfume soft autumn evenings….a perfume heady enough to intoxicate the senses.

Hoa Sua time in Hanoi is when I know I’ll be given one of those treats that make me sigh with contentment, and this year didn’t disappoint.

Mozart’s Coronation Mass at the Opera House on Friday night was excellently performed by the Vietnam Nation Symphony Orchestra, four nicely voiced soloists and a massed choir. To walk out of the grand old house after it was all over, the strains of that beautiful Agnus Dei filling your mind, and to be softly smothered in soft Hoa Sua scents that seemed to be drifting purposefully along Trang Tien, was autumn perfection.

Marvelous conductor Honna had the 25 minute performance under tight control. The orchestra was as gorgeously mellifluous as Mozart would have wanted and that master of choral performance, Mr. Sutcliffe, had handed over to him a choir that was at a lovely peak.

It’s a wonderfully effective choir, its cohort of young voices from the University of Arts and Education with their youthful intensity and energy underscored with the resonance and mellowness of mature voices from the Hanoi International Choir and the Japanese voiced Hanoi Freude Choir.

The other necessary instruments in the Mass are the voices of the soloists, and the four were beautifully cohesive as they were used in quartets, pairs and in solo portions that provide dramatic contrast to the larger, dynamic force of the massed choir. The alto, Le Thi Vanh Khuyen and tenor, Trinh Thanh Binh, performed really nicely. Japanese Baritone provided a necessary richness.

But so much of the dramatic beauty of the Mass depends on the soprano as her voice can make the hair on the back of your neck prickle as she enters the Kyrie

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…and the Agnus Dei can rise to superb heights if she is in great form.

And Ha Pham Thang Long certainly fulfilled all expectations.

Wouldn’t it be superb if the mob we heard on Friday could perform it again at St Joseph’s Cathedral with the crowning of a statue of Christ or of the Virgin Mary during the Mass, as was originally intended. Clergy in rich vestments swinging censors and preparing the host for consecration etc, and with the devout standing or kneeling at essential moments as the music pauses.

Even total atheists like me couldn’t help but be awed by the theater of it all.

For those who are hooked on the beauty and drama of Mozart’s small Mass, here it is performed in St. Peter’s in Rome….a pity that I can’t get you our Hanoi version at the Opera House which would also impress mightily.

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The Mass was preceded by the VNSO playing Mozart’s Jupiter symphony…which Woody Allen famously said proved the existence of God.

At Nha Hat Lon on Friday we got a first movement that almost indicated why Woody would have made such a pronouncement, and a fourth movement that could have cemented his belief in the deity’s existence.

The second movement had me wandering around a little lost and I didn’t quite catch the beauty that is inherent in this the finest of all Mozart’s slow movements …and the third, the Menuetto, put me in mind of a couple of portly, middle aged Austrians dancing in pursuit of herbed dumplings.

The finale, though, had me back on track and wrapped up in why the Jupiter is considered Mozart’s crowning symphonic feat…as can be heard here YouTube Preview Image

Once again thanks so very much to all you wonderful people involved in the Coronation Mass…including of course the choir masters who get all the esssential work under control in the beginning.

A HANOI EXPERIENCE TO CHERISH

Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.

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