Choral conductor Paul Hill knows Los Angeles well, having studied and begun his professional career here. Saturday evening he returned to lead the Los Angeles Master Chorale in a program at the Music Center Pavilion.
Unfortunately, his acquaintance with the music and musicians at hand--and theirs with one another--seemed limited. Not that there were any large disasters. But in all the little things, a lack of rehearsal was apparent, something not mitigated by Hill's head-down attention to the scores.
There were also some instances of questionable judgment. Hill's jocular spoken introduction to the Cum Sancto Spiritu double-fugue from Rossini's "Petite Messe Solennelle"--titles in which the program book consistently managed two misspellings--revealed a large ignorance about the work.
Hill preserved the original accompaniment of harmonium and piano, although he reduced the pianos from two to one. He expanded the 12 original voices to the full chorale. They attacked it with great vigor, but scant attention to formal subtlety.
For Vincent Persichetti's "Flower Songs" (1983), Hill did reduce the chorale by about two-thirds. This song-cycle provides grateful choral work in a warm, occasionally ruffled tonal idiom. The singers delineated the unidentified texts capably, and once fairly launched, a small string group provided supportive accompaniment.
The antiphony of Vivaldi's Beatus Vir setting for double chorus and orchestra was nicely done, though Hill had trouble starting movements evenly. All solos were assigned to sections, not individuals, a decision that minimized the concerto-style contrasts but gave the chorale opportunity to display fluid, cleanly articulated singing.
Ending the program was Cherubini's C-minor Requiem. Here all things came together: Hill's brisk approach complemented Cherubini's compact handling of the liturgical texts, the Master Chorale produced radiant, full-bodied sounds, and the Sinfonia Orchestra accompanied suavely, some misintonation notwithstanding.