By Louis Lebherz
FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN is one of European music history’s most important figures. His musical life spans through the late Baroque of Handel and JS Bach, the entire Classical era of Mozart and into the early 19th century of Beethoven and Schubert. His impact on his contemporaries can be summed up in the term of affection by which he was often referred, “Papa” Haydn. His various compositions are so numerous they take up forty pages in the Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians. They include over 100 symphonies, more than 20 operas, innumerable chamber pieces, overtures, concertos, and songs for voice and piano, and on and on. He was a colleague and mentor to both Mozart and Beethoven. He was Austro-Hungarian by birth, and worked in Vienna, Bonn, Dresden and London. Between 1796 and 1802, while working for the grandson of his former patron, Nikolaus Esterházy, he wrote six masses for Princess Maria Teresa of Naples and Sicily. These masses are regarded as pinnacles of Haydn’s compositions and have been referred to as Haydn’s “symphonic” masses. The Theresienmesse was one of these six works. Heard Sunday at Carmel Mission, the forces of I Cantori di Carmel, sang the mass with great spirit under the baton of their founder and leader, Sal Ferrantelli (right). The choir was precise and enthusiastic, although a bit top heavy in the women’s voices due to their numbers. The orchestra and concertmaster David Dally were well-balanced and provided a secure support for the voices. The solo quartet who are major players in the mass setting were ably anchored by stalwart bass Reg Huston. Soprano Katherine Edison’s voice grew increasingly brighter and stronger as the performance developed. The inner voices were sung by mezzosoprano Linda Purdy and tenor Arthur Wu.
The first half of the program highlighted Ferrantelli’s I Cantori. The processional piece, “Non Nobis Domine” by William Byrd made a dramatic introduction. The choir remained balanced and controlled as they processed up the aisle, with stunning effect. The rest of the program offered a variety of pieces from the Renaissance through the present. The choir was at its best in blend and sonority on the earlier pieces, Scarlatti’s “Ad Te Domine” and Morley’s “Lirum, Lirum.” With similar impact were twentieth-century German composer Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria,” popularized by the well- known Bay Area ensemble Chanticleer (who will be appearing in the same venue next week) and the lovely setting of “Mariä Wiegenlied” (Mary’s Lullaby) by German composer Max Reger. The two more modern pieces, René Clausen’s “Make we joy now in this fest” and John Rutter’s “There is a flower,” seemed to challenge the choir musically, and the sound of the ensemble lost some of its blend and sonority that was so prevalent in the older pieces. Two compositions of Ferrantelli made an interesting addition to the evening’s fare. His “O Magnum Mysterium” was a lovely setting of the ancient text found in the Responsory of the Office of Matins on Christmas Day, reworked by Ferrantelli from its original a cappella setting by the addition of strings and solo violin—beautifully played by David Dally. The second piece was a world-premiere of an Awansa-Tapish American Indian poem authored by I Cantori tenor Phoenix Redhawk-Eagleshadow. The poem was narrated by Reg Huston, and the choir and string ensemble sang the piece in a chant-like harmony accompanied by a solo drum and clarinet. (What a coincidence that this weekend the oil pipeline confrontation in North Dakota should have come to a nonviolent conclusion.)
Dr. Sal Ferranelli founded I Cantori nearly forty years ago and this Fall Concert will be his 36th and last year. He has done a wonderful thing in creating this community concert choir which has so enriched the lives of so many Monterey County singers, and thrilled so many audiences over these past four decades.