RSO timing impeccable, thrilling

RSO timing impeccable, thrilling: Hometown tenor Nick Leitch sang again with big-name soloists and held his own with the pros.

By Seth Williamson | Special to The Roanoke Times March 22, 2010

Musicians know that, as important as a good entrance is, it’s not as dramatic as the unanimous release of a phrase, when everybody slams the door at the same time.

I was reminded of this dictum Sunday afternoon in Shaftman Performance Hall. The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Chorus repeatedly crafted stupendous climaxes in the Mozart Requiem, when each of the hundred-plus musicians released their note within a microsecond of one another. The effect was thrilling.

About 725 concertgoers heard Mozart’s final (and unfinished) work, along with two pieces for strings.

The concert began with the “Dance of the Americas” by RSO double bassist Mark Bergman, a principal with the Mato Grosso Chamber Orchestra in Brazil. It is built on a four-note cell that undergoes many permutations. A percussion interlude featured the bassists tapping on their instruments.

Following this was Gustav Holst’s familiar “St. Paul’s Suite.”

Sunday’s reading of “Requiem, K. 626,” by Mozart was one of the best combinations of chorus and instrumentalists that Maestro David Stewart Wiley has conducted. The choral blend was sumptuous, diction clear, entrances and releases precise.

Hometown tenor Nick Leitch sang again with big-name soloists. Leitch held his own with the pros in the dramatic “Day of Wrath” section. His co-soloists were soprano Angela Maria Blasi, mezzo-soprano Jan Wilson and bass Charles Temkey. The Shaftman audience gave the performance a standing ovation. Wiley gave special recognition to trombonist Jay Crone, who had abundant solo passages.

Seth Williamson produces “Morning Classics” and “Back Roads & Blue Highways” on public radio station WVTF (89.1 FM) in Roanoke.