Some performances are better learned from and then forgotten. For Music Director J. Reilly Lewis and the Cathedral Choral Society, that could take a while. “It’s something in the air,” Lewis announced from the podium to a near-capacity crowd on Sunday at Washington National Cathedral. What was in the ether were disruptive stops and start-overs in Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis.” A venerable choral conductor, Lewis found himself mired in an uncharacteristic nightmare of contrasts, ranging from redemptive eloquence on second takes to onstage frustration best summarized by a vocal soloist’s audible sigh.
Things began well with Beethoven’s Fantasy for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra, known as a thematic precursor to his Ninth Symphony. Pianist Edward Newman’s interpretation was delightfully romantic, with maximum employment of sustain pedal and robust arpeggios that showcased a relaxed technical prowess. Chorus, orchestra and vocal sextet provided a cohesive reading of this work and a skewed sense of anticipation for the Mass.