Mozart Mass in C Minor
All Saints' Church, Eastbourne, Feburary 2016
Mozart's great Mass in C Minor is particularly familiar to anyone who has seen the film Amadeus, from its mysterious opening Kyrie to the final triumphant Osanna. On Saturday we heard it performed by the Phoenix Choir under the direction of Michael Fields, with orchestra and soloists, as the wind whipped up outside. It was a suitably dramatic setting for the concert which was enjoyed by a near-capacity audience.The choir opened with a steady and secure performance of Mozart's Te Deum, written when the composer was just thirteen. We then heard special guest baritone Stephen Varcoe, accompanied by Gavin Stephens on the piano. They performed three songs, the first by Mozart's son Franz Xaver. It was a gentle interlude, followed by one of Mozart's most popular works, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, played by the string section of the orchestra. Considering these players only meet on the afternoon of the concert, the ensemble was impressive, partly thanks to the excellent leader, Chris Phipps. I couldn’t help feeling that the 31-year old Mozart would have envisaged more lively tempi, but the playing was elegant and brought the first half to a pleasant close. When it came to the Mass in C minor, it was clear the choir had worked hard, producing many exciting moments of dynamic variation and a full sound. Soprano Lucy Cox shone in her solos, with thrilling top notes and excellent control. Mezzo Ansy Boothroyd impressed particularly in the technically demanding Laudamus Te and the ensemble singing between all four soloists was beautiful and balanced. The choir of nearly a hundred (boosted by a number of guests from Maastricht) sang well and they should be proud of their performance.
Reviewed by Nicholas Houghton