Thursday, this first-half performance of Beethoven’s first concerto paired with Mozart’s “Requiem.” Mozart died before completing work on the “Requiem,” but he left enough musical content behind for others to complete the masterpiece in his absence.
This concert was the first time Abbado’s edition of the Mozart score had been heard in the city. In its 2006 recording, the chorus performed a score edited by Robert Levin. Abbado’s edition — which uses pieces of Levin’s work, combined with other sources and the conductor’s own interpretation — could seem unfamiliar to “Requiem” listeners accustomed to more canonical versions of the score, but it may be difficult for casual listeners to pick out distinct differences.
While Osorio's Beethoven exploration is an important part of the season's offerings and Osorio has been the highlight of many of those concerts, most performances featuring the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus overshadow everything else on the program. Thursday was no exception. Though the "Requiem" seems to be an ASO Chorus evergreen, the group hasn't sung Mozart's Mass since an unofficial concert in October 2014, which occurred, due to the protracted lockout, at Oglethorpe University with a reduced ensemble and under the baton of Richard Prior, Emory University's director of orchestral studies.
The most immediate comparison would be an ASO chorus performance of a very different "Requiem" during the first half of the season. With principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles leading the way, the combined ensemble rolled out Verdi's operatic "Requiem," a much flashier choral composition that makes wider use of a quartet of soloists. The Mozart work is largely given over to the chorus — and with the ASO Chorus, prepared by Norman Mackenzie, there never seems to be a criticism — with the guest singers given brief time to shine in solo, quartet and duet settings.
Soprano Jessica Rivera and tenor William Burden stood out in the array of guest soloists. Rivera, a frequent ASO collaborator, has a crystalline voice made more elegant by a ruddy, rich resonance. Burden, in solo and as part of vocal ensembles, sang with bright authority.
Abbado is a firecracker of a conductor, exuding intensity and deliberate attention in each movement. He's a familiar presence in Atlanta, but he hasn't led the ensemble since the closing months of the 2014-15 season. Making up for lost time, he returns to Symphony Hall next week to lead the orchestra in Schubert's Symphony No. 8 and Osorio's final Beethoven concerto performance.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with Jorge Federico Osorio, Roberto Abbado
8 p.m. Feb. 8. Additional performances at 8 p.m. Feb. 10 and 3 p.m. Feb 11. $108. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, www.atlantasymphony.org.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Here are some fun events happening in February around Atlanta “Don Quixote” Atlanta Hot Chocolate 15k and 5k Road Race Sips Under the Sea North Atlanta Home Show Mardi Gras Streetcar Adventure African-American History Tours of Oakland Cemetery Oysterfest