St. Lawrence Choir marks milestone with Mozart 

By Arthur Kaptainis, The Gazette May 27, 2012 10:01 PM

Middle aged at last: The St. Lawrence Choir has turned 40 this year. On Saturday Michael Zaugg chose to mark the occasion with the local premiere of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor in the Robert Levin completion.

Or was this the Levin Mass in C Minor in the Mozart completion? Often it seemed so, with movements apparently cut from whole cloth, or at best based on fragments. These included a preachy and lugubrious Crucifixus that Mozart would never have contemplated and a solo-soprano Agnus Dei with elements of verismo. Levin confined himself to the classical harmonic language, necessarily, but he could not suppress his accent.

The additions also make a work of manageable dimensions too long. Ecclesiastical trombones that are impressive in moderation become bores through overexposure. Surely it is possible that Mozart did not finish this mass because he felt it contained enough good music as it stood.

It should be said that this music was impressively performed. There was splendour in the choral sonority in the Jesu Christe, and the singers showed no signs of fatigue through the workmanlike fugal passages with which Levin fleshed out the Credo. Of the two sopranos, Charlotte Corwin was the richer and more operatic, Tracy Smith Bessette the leaner and more oratorio-ish; they mixed well in duets. Tenor Isaiah Bell also blended nicely in ensembles but he lacked vigour in the interpolated aria in the Credo. Alexander Dobson, with less to do, was the sturdy baritone.

Zaugg led the choir and the lucid Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil with clear, steady gestures, sometimes choosing moderate tempos, a good idea in resonant St. Jean Baptiste Church. There was a ceremony before the start in honour of St. Lawrence Choir founder Iwan Edwards. The printed program included no text and only a superficial explanation of the Levin completion.

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© Michael Zaugg 2019