Sunday, December 6, 2009
John Lithgow in the post-concert chat:
> 'The Requiem Mass was a thing of great and terrible beauty.'
It was and is a thing of great beauty. I've heard the Requiem before, but I have to say, that this time somehow I heard it with much more clarity. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Mendelssohn Choir and Heinz Hall account for much of that. And now, with this first experience with a live concert of the Requiem, I find that much of it was simply brilliant musically, it was pleasing to my ear, and I found it eminently joyous, with little hint of sadness. It was only those haunting notes near the end that seemed to allude to the kind of emotion perhaps associated with death and loss. The genius of Mozart is the overwhelming sense of emotion that is invoked by such simple musical phrasing, and an enormous wealth of classical development.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Manfred Honeck's personal version of Mozart's Requiem was more than an experience, it was a search for one's very own soul. Honeck created a canvas, covered with sounds and sights and spoken words. He painted an artistic masterpiece upon that canvas, and I am glad I was there to experience this artistic creation, and to see it unfolding and hear the majesty. Could we imagine what the Mass of Mozart's funeral could have been like? This was a fantastic version of that hypothetical idea. The Requiem, complete with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, conductor Manfred Honeck, John Lithgow as narrator, Chen Reiss soprano, Lauren McNeese mezzo-soprano, Alek Shrader tenor, John Relyea bass, and the wonderful choral sounds of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, Betsy Burleigh director, and even Gregorian Chant, conjured this image and sound.
One of my favorite parts was Lithgow's reading of Mozart's letters to his father, Leopold Mozart. This letter is revealing in that it shows several themes which I took to heart. One, that Mozart himself may have been ready to accept life and death: "death is the true ultimate purpose of our lives." But what did he mean by that? I see it this way: life after death, and does it exist. My take is yes: I envision an image of my father, who has passed away, and that image is somewhat blurry; then beyond that is an image of myself, slightly less blurry, and beyond that further still is an image of my daughter, quite sharper in image quality, and the caption: Yes, there is life after death, and somehow, with this image, I don't fear death, I can easily, when the time comes, whenever it comes, and with God's grace, accept death. I finally see that this life after death is generational, and I see perhaps what Mozart meant in his letter to his father.
With the sights I could almost imagine Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral, the place where Mozart's funeral mass was actually performed; only then they did not play his Requiem. I believe Mozart himself never heard or experienced the complete orchestration and choir perform his magnificent piece. What a shame, but it was not a shame that it is his legacy and that we were able to experience it this night, and it was: beautiful! I'm still hearing the haunting sounds of the violins left play their two notes upward, and the violins left play their two notes downward, this melodic music flows in tuneful ways that bring both melancholy and joy, simultaneously, that is the genius that was Mozart.
I'll blog some more on this concert, but for now, I wanted to share a few thoughts and photos.