The review below appeared in the Albuquerque Journal of Oct. 3, 2004.
The New Mexico Symphony continued its Classics series Friday night with an odd but effective pairing of Stravinsky's energetic Symphony in Three Movements and Mozart's haunting Requiem.
Written during World War II, each of the movements of the symphony ``is linked in my imagination with a specific cinematographic impression of the war,'' wrote Stravinsky, who then later said ``the Symphony is not programmatic,'' so one is apparently free to take it whichever way one wishes.
His only firsthand experience with the war came in 1932 when in a Munich restaurant a group of Nazi cretins beat up one of his party, but the experience was enough to color his sensibilities for the remainder of the war.
The work's colorful and infectious syncopations, opening and closing the outer movements, came through most effectively under the baton of Maestro Figueroa expertly guiding the ensemble through Stravinsky's rhythmic labyrinth. If Stravinsky never recaptured the imaginative brilliance of Le Sacre, he came close in much of the final movement. One of the primary contrasts in the work is the interplay between piano and harp, skillfully wrought by Maribeth Gunning and Anne Eisfeller respectively.
This is a difficult, virtuosic piece for any orchestra, but the unease, the tension and violence were cogently conveyed, leading eventually to the triumphal climax that supposedly represents the Allied victory.
In the best tradition of Monty Python's ``And Now For Something Completely Different,'' the second half of the program brought the Symphony Chorus to the stage for a truly amazing performance of Mozart's Requiem. The Requiem has posed an enigma for more than two centuries. How much of it was finished by the composer, and how much later added has fueled musical debates to this day, and the question can probably never be resolved, but there has never been any argument that however much of it Mozart wrote, it is one of his most divine creations. Conceived for himself as much as for a commission, the Requiem is a testament to the power of music to move the soul.
From the opening introit through the impassioned ``Lacrymosa'' to the final ``Lux Aeterna,'' the NMSO Chorus under the direction of Roger Melone was in excellent form, beautifully balanced, the singing sharply etched throughout. The ``Dies Irae,'' the most extroverted section of the work, came through with astonishing power, making one's blood tingle. The ``Confutatis''---made famous as the movement Mozart dictated to Salieri (an excusable fiction) in the play ``Amadeus''---moved enchantingly between the celestial and the temporal. The soloists all turned in splendid performances, particularly Mary Ellen Callahan with her sweet lyric soprano.
The audience seemed not to want to leave afterward, insisting that Melone take a well-received bow, and even Maestro Figueroa seemed particularly and justifiably pleased with the outcome.