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A Rare Mozart Oratorio At Gindi

June 10, 1986|CHRIS PASLES

Nelson Nirenberg conducted the American Chamber Symphony and the UCLA A Cappella Choir in a genuine Mozart curio, the oratorio "Davidde Penitente," K. 469, in what was reported to be a local premiere Sunday in Gindi Auditorium at the University of Judaism.

Whereas Bach and Handel were inclined to reuse their earlier compositions in their later works, Mozart was sparing in this regard. But for the oratorio--set to an Italian text by an unknown author--Mozart reused eight parts of his great but incomplete Mass in C minor, K. 427.

He cut out the solo bass, composed two new arias and interpolated a solo trio in the "Cum sancto spiritu" fugue to end the work.

The results are not always happy: The new arias fall short of the creative level elsewhere and there are unwieldy stylistic shifts between them and the earlier work. This ill fit is particularly apparent in the interpolated trio.

For all that, "Davidde Penitente" might win a place in the active repertory if it were to receive finer performances than the one given by Nirenberg's forces.

The 42-member UCLA chorus brought youthful enthusiasm but little refined vocalism to its massive duties, yet sounded listless and pallid by the end.

Of the soloists, only soprano Patricia Prunty sang with sufficient sense of style and attention to the meaning of the text. Soprano Diane Thomas proved overly cautious and reticent, tenor Michael Reynolds simply was bloodless. The 30-member orchestra, which had opened the program with a stiff performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 36, "Linz," played boldly and with spirit in the oratorio.

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