PREVIEW (HT – Jacobi) Mozart Mass and Barber – “Summer Music Festival quickly coming to an end”

By Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist | Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2013 12:00 am        

diorio-220It used to be, until a very short while ago, that Summer Music Festival programs drifted into early August, and I liked that. Now, because of altered term lengths at the university, the festival period has been shortened, and I don’t like that.

Here we are, cascading toward a swift end as soon as day after tomorrow. That’s July 23, and already everything will be over, leaving us with a barren end to the month and all of August, a sad reality for a music devotee to deal with.

Still, a special closing event is in the offing for Tuesday evening when the Festival Orchestra plays its third and final concert of the season.

The ensemble will have a different face, somewhat smaller (about 30 musicians); it will perform in a different place, Auer Hall, and it will play not by itself but, rather, in tandem with the 40-member Festival Chorus.

Under the direction of Dominick DiOrio, the orchestra and chorus will perform Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, referred to as “The Great,” which it certainly is. To precede it, DiOrio has chosen Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings/Agnus Dei,” seemingly an unusual choice. His explanation, however, clearly justifies the decision.

The Mass, he says “was left incomplete at the time of Mozart’s death, its missing parts being the Credo and the entire Agnus Dei,” along with some of the orchestration. “We will be performing the Robbins-Landon edition of the Mozart, which reconstructs this incomplete version. Fast forward a century or two, and Samuel Barber had decided to make a choral transcription of his very popular ‘Adagio for Strings,’ interpolating the text of the ‘Agnus Dei.’ We will be performing the two simultaneously — they are essentially identical works, with the only difference being octave transposition of some of the voices from the original string registers. So, in essence, we’re completing the Mass that Mozart left undone with this very beautiful and moving work by Barber. It also rounds out the length of the full program to just over an hour, which we thought would be appropriate for the last Summer Music concert.”

DiOrio waxes enthusiastically over the C Minor Mass, calling it “without a doubt one of Mozart’s greatest scores. It combines,” he goes on to explain, “some of his best experiments from the chamber and the opera house into one great, compelling hour of art music. The opening ‘Kyrie’ movement is one of Mozart’s most melancholic; the ‘Gloria,’ one of his most joyful, and the ‘Qui tollis,’ one of his most tortured.

“The incredible fugue movements, ‘Cum sancto spiritu’ and ‘Osanna,’” adds Di Orio, “are evidence of Mozart ‘the contrapuntal genius’ at work. And amidst all of this, we have some of the most beautiful solo writing heard in any of the oratorio repertoire: the brilliant and operatic ‘Christe’ interjections for soprano, the driving ‘Laudamus Te’ for second soprano or mezzo, the incredibly sublime ‘Et incarnatus est,’ essentially a vocal concerto for soprano, and especially the ‘Benedictus’ quartet.”

For solo assignments, DiOrio has decided not to limit them to the usual four singers but “to share the wealth among many of our talented singers in the Summer Festival Chorus. No fewer than 10 of our student vocalists will take on star billing for this performance.”

The chorus — which in June contributed an engaging, chorus-focused interpretation of Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” to the summer fare — had just “three short weeks” to rehearse the Mozart, says DiOrio. “Summer rehearsal periods are condensed, and I have only one rehearsal with the orchestra before we combine for two short dress rehearsals. It’s going to be an exciting and wild ride.”

Setting preparatory problems aside, the conductor addresses Mozart and his Mass once more in laudable fashion: “This is music conceived by Mozart to make full use of the musical and emotional spectrum,” he tells me, then adds this pronouncement: “I dare anyone to come and listen to it and not be moved.”

Mozart, of course, has never dared me to be moved by his Mass. That’s happened, regardless. A possible explanation comes from music scholar Alfred Einstein. “Mozart’s church music,” he once noted, “is ‘catholic’ in a higher sense of the word, namely in that all art is ‘devout.’ And so, in this higher sense, the ‘catholicism’ of Mozart’s church music lies . in its humanity, in its appeal to all devout and childlike hearts, in its directness.”

I now anxiously await the performance, in the hope that it, too, will move me. After all, with an extended quiet period to follow, I want a concluding festival concert that does move me and then lingers in memory.

Reach Peter by sending an email to with “Jacobi” in the subject line.


WHAT AND WHO: Dominick DiOrio conducts the Festival Orchestra and Chorus in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, “The Great.” As prelude, the musicians offer Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings/Agnus Dei.”

WHEN: Tuesday evening at 8.

WHERE: Auer Hall on the IU Bloomington campus.

ADMISSION: Tickets are $15 general admission; $8 for students.

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