Schwarz, Palm Beach Symphony fete Mozart in style

By Lawrence Budmen

Jon Manasse performed Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with Gerard Schwarz leading the Palm Beach Symphony Thursday night at the Kravis Center. Photo: JeanCarlo Ramirez

Two seasons ago, Gerard Schwarz took charge as music director of the Palm Beach Symphony (in addition to his ongoing work as faculty member and conductor at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music). 

On Thursday night Schwarz led over 40 members of his Palm Beach ensemble in an all-Mozart program at the Kravis Center, and the consistently high standard of music-making strongly displayed his transformation of this group. The program’s theme was “Mozart’s Final Year,” offering a selection of the masterpieces music’s great genius penned in 1791, the year of his early death at age 35.

Schwarz is an expert Mozartean, having served for many years as director of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. Following the stately opening, the overture to The Magic Flute benefited from crisp articulation and broadly varied dynamics. Unison strings were strong and cohesive, brass and winds firm and emphatic.

Jon Manasse was the soloist for the Clarinet Concerto in A Major. The initial orchestral tutti was strongly characterized by Schwarz, setting the stage for Manasse’s refined and patrician reading. He displayed total command of his instrument, with nimble agility and a consistently beautiful tone. Manasse managed to register the pathos beneath the brightly vigorous surface of the first movement. 

He took a slower tempo for the Adagio, spanning the long phrases with gracious accents and a woody sonority. He floated the bouncy melody of the concluding Rondo with the breezy lightness and insouciance of an opera buffa aria. Throughout the performance, Manasse’s precision and clean articulation were impressive with Schwarz provided vital orchestral support.

In the concert’s second half, the Master Chorale of South Florida joned the orchestra for Mozart’s Requiem in Franz Xavier Süssmayr’s completion. 

The Chorale’s pre-Thanksgiving performances of this work under artistic director Brett Karlin were stylish and well sung. With Schwarz on the podium, however, there was greater gleam, depth, nuance and focus in the group’s corporate effort. Schwarz’s sense of pacing and breadth brought out the rounded sacred drama at the work’s core.

Gerard Schwarz conducted the Palm Beach Symphony, soloists and Master Chorale of South Florida in Mozart’s Requiem Thursday night. Photo: JeanCarlo Ramirez

The chorus’s singing of the mass’s numerous fugal sections was clean and well placed, Schwarz making every inner voice audible. In the fast sections, instrumental rhythms had emphatic spring and snap. There was urgency and tension in the desperate cries for mercy of the “Agnus Dei” which was given weight and strength of emotion. Schwarz brought the opus full circle with Süssmayr’s repeat of the initial sections  but with greater scale and dramatic penetration.

The solo quartet was cohesive and well-balanced. Robyn Marie Lamp, the only soloist from the Master Chorale’s previous performance, displayed a silvery soprano timbre and supple delicacy of phrase. Robynne Redmon’s warmly burnished mezzo and Richard Ollarsaba’s smooth, darkly colored bass held up the lower vocal end. Jason Ferrante’s tenor voice is on the light side but he projected with force and well-placed accents. The “Benedictus” soared, Schwarz and the four singers bringing spacious reverence to the melodic phrases. The performance’s cumulative impact far exceeded its individual components.

At the conclusion of the Requiem, Schwarz held up his hands to avoid audience applause and immediately launched into the motet Ave verum corpus, sung softly, to bring the concert to a reflective conclusion. The applause and cheers that followed were prolonged.

Gerard Schwarz conducts the Palm Beach Symphony in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with soloist Yefim Bronfman 7:30 p.m. January 10, 2022 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Schwarz, Palm Beach Symphony fete Mozart in style”

  1. Posted Dec 03, 2021 at 7:46 pm by Julio Rodriguez

    Thank you very much Mr. Budman. The three performances of that great work were very significant to us, the singers, after two years of wanting to get together, return to meet with each other, exchange personal and important news, many hugs and tears of joy, enjoying our rehearsals and singing for our audiences.

    Your kind words will help us greatly to continue our mission to make music together.

    Thanks again and have a great Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year 2022.

    A member of our Tenor Section.

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