Bernstein protege Alsop bringing "Mass" to London

Tue Feb 3, 2009 7:43am EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - American conductor Marin Alsop will take another crack at convincing the world that Leonard Bernstein's troubled "Mass" is a masterpiece in the upcoming season at London's Southbank Center, organizers said.

Alsop will take the better part of a year to produce a performance of Bernstein's 1971 rock and classical work about a Catholic celebrant who has a crisis of faith and, in its famous "mad scene," smashes a chalice used for the mass on the floor.

Daniel Barenboim, who played all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in the 2008 season, comes back for 2009-2010 to play the five piano concertos with the Berlin Staatskapelle.

The Takacs Quartet will play Beethoven's string quartets and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will perform the nine symphonies.

British violinist Nigel Kennedy, who now lives in Poland, will preside over a weekend of Polish music, the center said.

"This shows the level, quality and depth of people coming here," Southbank head of music Marshall Marcus told Reuters.

Singers on the bill include sopranos Renee Fleming and Angela Gheorghiu as well as baritone Simon Keenlyside.

But for novelty and curiosity value, nothing can beat Alsop's virtual one-woman campaign to rescue Bernstein's ambitious performance piece from the obscurity its detractors say it so richly deserves.   Continued...