Chamber-size works--mostly Mozart, mostly mid-size, and contrasting with music from the 20th century--made the latest Pacific Chorale agenda provocative and entirely engaging.
John Alexander's program in the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Saturday night juxtaposed three early pieces of Mozartean fecundity with the brief but awesome "Ave verum corpus" of his last year, then set all four off with spiritual uplifters by Arvo Part and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Does this all sound deep and philosophical? It may be, but this program was first and most evidently a balm on jaded ears and a pleasing musical entertainment. If it touched the listener in a spiritual way, that is an expected bonus when a musical body as gifted as the Pacific Chorale sings up to its level of tonal and textual accomplishment.
Uncliched Mozart began and ended the evening, but the meat of the event came in the middle, in a wondrous, ear-opening introduction to Part's handsome and transparent "Te Deum," which utilizes both Gregorian (Western) chant and Eastern liturgy.
The textures are sparse and effective, the melodies haunting, the orchestral parts supportive but lean. One listens to this strangely familiar yet unknown music as one listens to a legend being told for the first time. Alexander led his 46 singers and 31 instrumentalists of the Pacific Symphony with inspired command of the narrative line.
Violist Robert Becker was the mellow-toned and masterly soloist in Vaughan Williams' multilayered "Flos Campi," for viola, wordless chorus and orchestra.
This expressive work--no words are sung, but each movement is headed by text from "The Song of Solomon"--is by turns mysterious, romantic, martial and reflective.
Its subjects may be unspecified, but its protagonist, this time through soloist Becker, becomes heroic through musicality. Alexander and his associates gave deep assistance.
Beginning with the "Ave verum corpus" and concluding with the Missa Brevis, K. 194--written when the composer was 18--the Mozart portion upheld the standards of the evening.
The clear-sounding soloist in the Sonata for Organ & Orchestra, No. 15, was Lori Loftus. In the Missa Brevis, four members from the chorale took on the solo vocal duties. They were Katharin Rundus, Jeanette Moon, William Smith and Thomas Ringland.