JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Karen Kennedy presided over the orchestra and international choruses at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.
Director bids farewell with tribute to Mozart
GHANA'S Oral Village Ideas Theater Choral Group, New Zealand's Hamilton Civic Choir, Japan's Toin High School Choral Group, Japan's Merveille Chorus and the University of Hawaii Chamber Singers, all drawn together for the Ninth Annual Hawaii International Choral Festival, joined the Honolulu Symphony and Chorus for a majestic concert on Friday.
In concert: 4 p.m. today
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $12 to $65
Call: 792-2000 or Ticketmaster, (877) 750-4400
The concert honored Mozart's 250th birth year (he was born on Jan. 27, 1756) and was also chorus director Karen Kennedy's final performance with the Honolulu Symphony and Chorus.
Kennedy has accepted a teaching position in Maryland and will leave the islands in the summer. As Alex Silver, president of the Honolulu Symphony Chorus board, said, it is sad to see her leave. She has built an extraordinary choral program at the University of Hawaii and has led the Symphony Chorus with refined taste and powerful interpretations. Her charismatic direction will be a tough act to follow. The audience and countless choir members who have been drawn by her magnetic personality and expertise will miss her very much.
Friday's concert was the proof of her talent and knowledge. She conducted both the orchestra and the choirs in a magnificent performance of Mozart's "Requiem." With hundreds of musicians following her eyes and fingertips, she delivered an extraordinary performance.
The "Requiem," a masterpiece left unfinished by the dying composer, was completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr. The soloists, soprano Alicia Berneche, mezzo soprano Milargo Vargas, tenor Vale Rideout and bass baritone Burr Cochran Phillips did a tremendous job. In particular, Rideout's vibrant timbre and Vargas' dark and powerful voice added to the highly dramatic mood.
THE CONCERT opened with Jacques Ibert's "Hommage à Mozart" (1956), an overture that has little to do with Mozart's intelligence and more with Ibert's cheery, light style. But the concert also included Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony No. 41, conducted by Joan Landry. Mozart's last symphony is a masterpiece of classical balance and Landry and the orchestra gave it a skillfully shaped and finely realized interpretation.
Principal flute Susan McGinn and principal oboe J. Scott Janusch contributed to the quality of the performance, especially in the expansion of the first movement's opening subject. But it was in the final movement and coda that all themes combined in a tour de force to thrill the audience.
Unfortunately, sometimes spectators' enthusiasm can affect the performance. The urge to clap between movements can compromise the performers' concentration, even when meant as a compliment. Luckily, this happened only during the "Jupiter" and at the beginning of the "Requiem." After that, Kennedy, the choirs and the orchestra were able to complete a nonstop brilliant performance.
Valeria Wenderoth has a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.