Grant Park, Kalmar Perform Dvorak with Ardor
August 14, 2010
Kalmar's account was perfectly, patiently scaled. The first half – Dvorak constructed the work in two parts to permit an intermission – crested with the big return of the chorus in the "Dies Irae," clamorous with chimes and organ.
Carlos Kalmar is closing his 10th season as principal conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival with, fittingly, a "Requiem" followed by a "Resurrection." Friday night brought a first performance by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus of Antonin Dvorak's glowing "Requiem." Next Friday will bring Gustav Mahler's fiery Second Symphony
Dvorak's 1890 "Requiem" is, unlike the Mahler, 90 minutes of devotion without memorable tunes or theatrics. It has plenty of extroverted moments for orchestra, chorus, and a quartet of vocal soloists, but its impact is not because of them. The intensity it achieves is inward and cumulative.
Performances in concert and on disc are therefore rare. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's 2009 "Dvorak Festival" presented his earlier "Stabat Mater," not the "Requiem." And the most successful recording, conducted by Karel Ancerl, goes back more than 50 years.
Kalmar's account was perfectly, patiently scaled. The first half – Dvorak constructed the work in two parts to permit an intermission – crested with the big return of the chorus in the "Dies Irae," clamorous with chimes and organ. The second half rightly surpassed everything that had gone before in the pounding repetitions of the "Sanctus," at the words "Hosanna in excelsis."
Despite such ardor, when the work was over you remembered, as you should, a fundamental gentleness. And it came largely through the color of wind solos and passages for massed strings. Outdoor amplification does not easily convey expressive shadings of relaxed, refined tone, yet on Friday it did, and they, as much as first-rate singing, gave the performance distinction.
Each member of the beautifully combined quartet -- Layla Claire, soprano; Alexandra Petersamer, mezzo-soprano; Brendan Tuohy, tenor; Kyle Ketelsen, bass - shone in extended solos, though that was not the dominant effect. Dvorak more often passed around short fragments of text, one voice picking up where the other left off or briefly joining together. If I particularly admired the dignity imparted by Ketelsen, everyone else showed equal sensitivity, however varied the music Dvorak provided them.
Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune