By Lawrence Budmen

While the lieder and instrumental works of Franz Schubert have become repertoire staples, the composerís choral works are  seldom performed. Schubertís Mass No.6 in E-flat Major was an ambitious offering by the Master Chorale of South Florida under  the direction of Jo-Michael Scheibe on April 17 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. While the performance was less than perfect,  the broad outlines of this moving score were strongly projected. Scheibe (who is Director of Choral Studies at the UM Frost  School of Music) led a deeply expressive performance and emerged as a choral miracle worker.

Schubertís Mass No.6 dates from the final year (1828) of the composerís life. This work reveals the strong influence of  Beethoven on Schubertís harmonic and fugal invention. 

Scheibe conducted a strong performance that captured much of the scoreís majesty and inner tension. With over 100 voices the  Master Chorale brought great fervor to their performance. The hushed beauty of the opening Kyrie was beautifully spun out by  Scheibe. The music was shaped with the arching line of a graceful, angelic song. In the opening choral perorations of the  Gloria Scheibe brought a commanding exultation to the music that radiated a true sense of joy. He guided the complex fugal  conclusion (reminiscent of Beethovenís Misa Solemnis) with masterful aplomb. 

The mystery of the opening of the Sanctus was magically evoked by Scheibe who gave full rein to the pensive mood of the Agnus 
Dei with its anguished cries and hushed incantation. The final Dona Nobis Pacem was marvelously uplifting. 

Of the five vocal soloists only the radiant voiced soprano Jana Young and the solid mezzo Hannah Sharene Penn came close to  doing Schubertís music justice. In an exposed solo role that requires a first class Mozart tenor Matthew Tresler was hard  pressed to meet the musicís demands in the upper and lower registers. Tenor Kristopher Jean and bass James Bass were often  inaudible.

Apart from some less than secure wind playing, the new Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia provided strong support. The  transparent, crisp string sound was particularly impressive. The lower strings (led by violist Michael Klotz of the Amernet  String Quartet and former Florida Philharmonic bassist Janet Clippard) provided a sonorous underpinning to the vocal line.  Scheibe vividly conveyed the drama and joy of Schubertís choral swan song. 

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