It used to be the case that, in reviewing Edward Polochick's performances with the Concert Artists of Baltimore, one commented that the conductor's fine choral performances always outshone his work in orchestra-only repertory. It's a measure of this young conductor's growth that one can remark of his concert Saturday night at LeClerc Hall at the College of Notre Dame that a performance of Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony" was more impressive than a reading of Mozart's C Minor ("The Great") Mass (K. 427).
What made Polochick's "Unfinished" interesting was not the polish of the playing -- there was some faulty intonation among the winds and some scrappy playing among the higher-voiced strings -- but its intensity. This was an "Unfinished" that did not look back to the symphonies of Mozart, Haydn or even Beethoven; its weight and substance looked forward to those of Bruckner. The first movement had a tragic gravity that Polochick emphasized with intelligently gauged shifts in tempos, with darkly sonorous colors from his cellos and basses, and with an ear-tingling rasp from the trombones. The slow movement moved spaciously and sweetly, without eschewing drama, and the conclusion had the radiance it needs but does not always receive.
The C Minor Mass -- which, like the Schubert, is an unfinished pTC work -- is the greatest of Mozart's sacred works. It is also one of the most difficult to bring off. It partakes equally of a majesty (in its choral sections) that declares the composer's belated discovery of the great contrapuntal works of Handel and Bach and of an operatic vocal beauty and intensity (in the solo parts) that suggests the composer who had just finished "The Abduction from the Seraglio" and who was about to begin work on "The Marriage of Figaro."
This listener's reservations about the performance was not with a failure to pay attention to both aspects of the C Minor Mass -- Polochick's conducting was scaled for both grandeur and excitement and his chorus, particularly the women, sang beautifully -- but with the uneven quality of the soloists.
Soprano Theresa Sweet sang consistently with an attractively dreamy beauty. But mezzo-soprano Monica Reinagel not only sang erratically -- sometimes sounding pinched -- but was also unable to come up with a trill good enough to do justice to the composer. In less important roles, tenor Raymond Aparentado had too small a voice to be heard over either of the women soloists, and bass John Eisenhardt sang attractively.