REVIEW: Memphis Symphony Orchestra 'nearly flawless' with Schubert

Mei-Ann Chen
Commercial Appeal

By Jon W. Sparks

There’s something different in the air when a performing organization faces an uncertain future.

The Memphis Symphony Orchestra recently announced that it has a financial situation that requires boatloads of money or a change in what it does or both.

Before Sunday afternoon’s Masterworks concert, president and CEO Roland Valliere spoke to the audience of how groups and individuals are digging deeper and working harder to come up with assistance if not solutions.

If that spirit were translated into a musical performance, that might be what concertgoers heard in the performances of Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony and Brahms’ “German Requiem,” the latter including the Memphis Symphony Chorus and the University Singers from the University of Memphis.

The orchestra and chorus soared in the performance at the Germantown Performing Arts Center (another performance was held Saturday night at the Cannon Performing Arts Center).

Schubert’s 8th Symphony is luminously gorgeous and melodic. Under the baton of Maestro Mei-Ann Chen, the orchestra gave a very nearly flawless rendering of the simply beautiful work.

After intermission, orchestra and combined choruses, with soprano Mary Wilson and baritone Matthew Morris, took on the enormous Requiem.

It’s an exquisitely beautiful piece, not intended, as Brahms said, as a prayer for the dead but rather a comfort for the living. With that in mind, it casts aside the darkness of loss and celebrates the remembrance of those whose lives have touched us.

Wilson’s voice is crystalline, strong and delicate at the same time. Her rendition of “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit” (You now have sorrow) was breathtaking.

The choruses, under the responsibility of Lawrence Edwards, deserve another round of commendation. Edwards imbues the singers with a deep sense of finesse and artistry, and their work was as thrilling as the orchestra’s performance.