A mixed bag of Beethoven
By Frank Merkling
NEWS-TIMES ARTS CRITIC
NEWTOWN — The Connecticut Master Chorale concert Saturday,
called “The Power of Beethoven,” proved to exemplify this whether emotional power or sheer
force was intended.
There was plenty of the latter, especially at the end.
Music director Tina Johns Heidrich chose to wind things up with the “Choral Fantasy,”
that hodgepodge of splashy pianism, spicy variations on a Beethoven song called “Mutual
Love” and, finally, solo singing followed by the chorus in what sounds like a dry run for
the Ninth Symphony 16 years later — but whoever wrote the words was no Schiller.
Whether the work aimed at giving pianist Joseph Jacovino Jr. something to do or simply
at ending with a bang, it backfired.
Genuine power climaxed the concert’s first half — the Mass in C, where the composer
tries to fill Haydn’s shoes and ends by stretching them with originality.
A Kyrie confident of God’s mercy, a Gloria already calling for the soprano high A’s of
the Ninth Symphony, a dramatic Credo, a Sanctus with an a cappella start that almost came
to grief here, pitch-wise, but was saved by the soloists’ Benedictus — it was a stirring
The soloists were Rachel Watkins, a carrying soprano; the rich-toned alto Erika Rauer;
tenor Andrew Childs, who phrased admirably; and supportive bass Brendan Cooke.
The chorus sang with its wonted care for “blend and purity of tone” (qualities demanded
by Heidrich and saluted by the singers themselves in a house ad) and with Heidrich’s own
care for accuracy and expressiveness.
In the beneficent acoustics of St. Rose of Lima Church, the evening started rousingly
with the Hallelujah Chorus from “The Mount of Olives” and reached an emotional height in
the (male) Prisoners’ Chorus from “Fidelio.”
A sung version of the hypnotic, enigmatic slow movement from the Seventh Symphony added
nothing to the original.
More rewarding was an Elegy for the wife of a close friend of the composer’s, starting
off with fine work by the strings.
This novelty, like the rest of the concert, dates from the decade 1804-14, when
Beethoven truly came into his power. Brava, Tina!