Schubert: Symphony No. 5
Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 3
Beethoven: Mass in C
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, leader Amin Merchant
Bournemouth Symphony Chorus
Nicholas McGegan: Conductor
Nicolas Fleury: Horn
Kate Royal: Soprano
Jennifer Johnston: Mezzo-Soprano
Robert Murray: Tenor
Alastair Miles: Bass
If offered a ride in a time machine, it would be tempting to visit Vienna around 1800. All the works in this attractive concert date from the thirty years spanning this year: incredible that three such titans of music history as Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert inhabited the city in such a short time span, along with their equal Haydn.
Schubert’s 5th Symphony, which started the concert, was written later than all of Beethoven’s symphonies except the ninth, yet it is the influence of Mozart that is most powerful on the nineteen-year-old composer. The small orchestra includes neither timpani, clarinets or trumpets. McGegan directed the chamber-sized forces through a clean, crisp and graceful account of the symphony, which looks back to the eighteenth century rather than forward to the lyrical inventiveness and spacious paragraphs of the composer’s later works.
After Schubert at his most Mozartian, we had a taste of the real thing in the shape of Mozart’s third concerto for horn. The BSO’s principal horn, Frenchman Nicolas Fleury, gave a warm and confident performance of this sunny concerto, never hinting at the notorious difficulty of this instrument.
Beethoven’s strangely-neglected Mass in C was written in the same year as the 5th and 6thsymphonies. Beethoven was at the height of his powers, revolutionising music in work after work that pushed boundaries and innovated fearlessly. However, this work is fairly conventional, and lacks the anguished wrestling with faith that marks his later setting of the mass, the Missa Solemnis. The work was commissioned by Prince Esterhazy, Haydn’s patron, and he didn’t much care for it.
The chorus take centre stage, with the excellent soloists and large orchestra in secondary roles. The focus is on the words of the Latin Mass, and Beethoven’s thoughtful elucidation and illustration of their meaning. From the hushed unaccompanied entry of the baritones in the opening onwards, the large forces of the chorus were on their feet throughout. Their singing was precise and thrilling in its control of expression and dynamics, proving that this beautifully-crafted and sincere work should be heard more often. But don’t just take my word for it: the concert was broadcast on Radio 3, and you can hear it for yourself by following this link: