The Paul Hill Chorale made a handsome contribution to the Kennedy Center's celebration of Paris and the Romantic epoch with a program of Cerubini, Rossini and Berlioz in the Concert Hall yesterday afternoon.
Cherubini was included because he spent the greater part of his life in Paris and, as the director of the Paris Conservatory, taught nearly every major French musician, including Berlioz. The Chorale sang one of Cherubini's loveliest works, his Requiem Mass in C Minor, which pairs classic balance with romantic expressiveness.
The Chorale's clear, light sound was perfectly suited to the Requiem's delicate melodic writing. Under Hill's brisk direction the performance was properly restrained without losing in expressiveness. His shaping of the frequent choral climaxes, and the singers' responsiveness to dynamic shifts were exceptionally skillful.
For the Berlioz portion of the program Hill chose smaller choral songs that offered lesser known aspects of the composer. Berlioz could be a propagandist as several of the songs ringing with liberty and brotherhood indicated. "A Dance of Ghosts," a delicate choral scherzo, reflecting his fascination with the bizarre, contrasted with several sacred songs of an almost chaste simplicity.
The various moods were, in general, well handed, although the songs for men's chorus needed a weightier, less refined sound. Two choruses from Rossini's opera, "William Tell," which premiered in Paris in 1829, brought the program to a spirited close.