Mozart’s Last Joke
Learning Mozart’s Requiem — the centerpiece of the University of Arizona Community Chorus spring concert, April 29, 3 pm, FYI – is an intense and wonderful experience. I know the piece well, and have said on previous occasion that its Kyrie is the cry of a desperate dying man for mercy for his sins, and for sure in its intensity it evokes that response. But learned from inside, it’s beginning to feel like a vast, lightning-fast joke – the flittery dancing up and down the scale, the octave jump where you least expect it (and often right where any reasonable vocalist would be out of breath), the melodrama of the sharps and flats inserted and held at just the – well, melodramatic moment – it’s a delight, a cornball thumbing of the nose at the Grim Reaper. When this is over I just might rank it above Fauré’s Requiem, which would be an inversion of my previous order. Fauré is sweet and tender; Mozart’s is blunt and no-nonsense: — Help me, I’m fucked! with the expletive appropriate to the man and the music; and comes the response — There is no help, God save you.
A chorister has no choice but to memorize the music – no way to get through the Kyrie without diving off the cliff and praying. One glance down at the page and you’re left behind and you’ll never catch up, no point in trying, everything is moving so fast, the roller coaster has disappeared over the next climb and plunge. Written by and for drama queens – I’m having to decide, and quickly, whether I have the theatrical flair required to sing it well. Fortunately, one of the salubrious experiences of singing in a chorus is that I always feel self-conscious – ohmygod, everybody heard me sing that flat note. But then I listen to recordings, and – short of an entrance ahead of schedule – any single voice is lost in the overall wall of sound (Mozart had this idea long before Phil Spector), which is both a relief (thank God nobody heard that flat note) and a humbling (I’m not as important as I think I am).
Locals and visitors, take note: University of Arizona Community Chorus and Orchestra, Dr. Elizabeth Schauer, conductor, Blair Buffinton, assistant conductor, performs Schubert’s “Intende voci” and Mozart’s “Requiem,” Sunday, April 29, 3 p.m., Crowder Hall, University of Arizona campus. Box office 520-621-1162.