The mistake so often made about Mozart, by musicians and listeners alike, is to believe that, at the heart of his music, sits an intricate Viennese clock, ticking away in delicious patterns that weave through his immortal melodies.
The most demoralizing performances are given by musicians who do not realize that at the center of his greatest music is not a chirping clock, but a blazing sun.
Leave it to that remarkable conductor Benjamin Zander to bring the true center for our attention, again. Last Thursday night in Faneuil Hall, Zander guest-conducted the Boston Classical Orchestra in a performance of Mozart's 34th Symphony and his Mass in C minor. The engine powering these two works was never so apparent to this reviewer.
The failures in the evening - a too cursorily scanned second movement in the symphony, a bassoon accompaniment that occasionally sounded like bleating instead of pleading - were swept away by the signal accomplishments of the night.
Zander got the whole massive scale of the Mass, its vaulted architecture, the iridescent shading of line and form, quite right. But over and above all this, he escaped the big pitfall that this piece invites: He never let it become a gorgeously static monolith, because he stayed with the constant movement and energy at the heart of the work.
In this endeavor, he was aided by soprano Jeanne Ommerle (not in her fullest voice, but radiantly touching, nonetheless), mezzo-soprano D'Anna Fortunato, flutist Christopher Kreuger, oboist Peggy Pearson, a generally fine ensemble, and the Chorus pro Musica.
I thought Zander was right when he told me last summer he had decided to present the unfinished Mass just as Mozart left it - without drawing from previous works to fill in the holes or adding other window dressing. On Thursday night, I walked away wondering what one could possibly have added to this towering edifice, so overwhelming in its conception, so burning in its inspiration. - Christopher Swan