The program itself was something to treasure, comprising classic gems by Haydn and Mozart.
Parry was soloist in Mozart’s Oboe Concerto (make that oboe, for it is heard more often in the transcription by Mozart for flute). The Chorus and a quartet of fine soloists were heard in Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass.”
Attendance was gratifying, considering the frigid weather (temperatures were in the single digits overnight). However, as is often the case, one wished that Springer auditorium could be tipped forward so that the scattered crowd would fall into the empty seats in front.
Parry, who delights CSO listeners regularly in his role as principal oboist, captivated them in the Mozart Concerto. His opening statement emerged svelte and sweet, wrapped in an exquisite, pristine tone that was shaped just so. He negotiated runs, trills and ornaments with ease – the cadenzas were his own – and he hit high Cs like an operatic tenor.
The lovely Adagio, whose melodic beauty only Mozart could conceive, was touching in the extreme (Parry can say it all in one long-held, eloquent note), while the chipper rondo finale brought smiles to everyone’s lips. Audience response was warm and immediate, prompting an encore. It was a gem, too, “Gabriel’s Oboe” by William Morricone from the 1986 film “The Mission.”
Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass,” a CSO subscription concert premiere, was ideally situated in Music Hall (where it has graced the May Festival on prior occasions). It was even photogenic, with Heather MacPhail on the organ, flanking the reduced CSO and the Chorus ranked behind them.
(The name, by the way, became associated with the Mass in the wake of the British Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, an event that took place concurrently with Haydn’s completion of the work. Haydn himself simply called it “Missa in Angustiis” or “Mass in Troubled Times.”)
It is a noble work, majestic in structure and deeply moving in detail. Porco led a performance to match. It is a pre-eminent work for chorus, with most of the text announced by it and elaborated by the soloists. There are no arias as such, and the soloists often sing in combination with each other. They were a fine quartet, soprano Mary Wilson, mezzo-soprano Laura Thoreson, tenor Michael Porter and bass-baritone Andrew Kroes, all of whom (notably Wilson and Kroes) displayed arresting coloratura skills.
The Mass opened with powerful statements of “Kyrie,” setting a dramatic context for the work. The “Gloria,” by contrast, was jubilant, with statements of “qui tollis” by the soloists, warmly echoed by the Chorus. The “Credo” was bright and affirmative, with some keen word painting and crystal clear diction. (Indeed, as led by Porco, the 130-voice Chorus can sound like one small voice, when indicated.)
The “Sanctus” and “Benedictus” were vivid and affectingly shaped, with “in nomine Domini” casting a sudden ray of light. Similarly, “Dona nobis pacem” sealed the work on a supreme note of confidence and joyful assertion.
The concert opened with the Overture to Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” Overture, a work in diametric opposite to the Mass with its vision of the unrepentant sinner. The introduction was downright creepy, a feeling un-dispelled by the casual jollity of the Overture proper.
The concert repeats at 8 p.m. tonight at Music Hall. Tickets, beginning at $10, are available at (513) 381-3300 and online at www.cincinnatisymphony.org.