Tutti Contenti at Amadeus Live

Brian Chang, The Wholenote – Concert Report.

I’ve never seen Amadeus before. This is blasphemy amongst choral singers and I’ve been lambasted many times. To be fair, it came out a few years before I was born and Mozart isn’t exactly standard repertoire for high school arts programs in Scarborough. I was excited when it was announced last year that the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir would be singing in a live screening of the film on October 28 and 29 at the Sony Centre. As a chorister, I’ve now sung Mozart many times, most often the great unfinished Requiem. And now I can say I’ve seen the film as well.


The second half of the film is dominated by the Requiem Mass. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir shone the most in these pieces – after all, they know it well. Despite best efforts the diction was lost in the Sony Centre, but the overall effect was not diminished; it is the reality of singing amplified in a space full of soft services and full with 3100 patrons. The choir had excellent blend and balance and was well met by the Motion Picture Symphony Orchestra.

Those familiar with the film might know of the scene with Mozart dictating notation to Salieri from his bed. Mozart’s descriptive explanation of the compositional elements of the Confutatis of the Requiem in the film was exceptionally interesting with the presence of a live orchestra and choir. The scene serves as a tricky demonstration that melds together one of the most dramatic moments of the entire mass while at the same time enlightening our understanding of Mozart’s composition.

Richard Kaufman – a world-renowned conductor and specialist in film music, who serves as the principal pops conductor of the Orange County Pacific Symphony – helmed the musicians. I’m always surprised when conductors of live film screenings don’t use a click track with their musicians for consistency. Without, a performance requires a deep mastery and familiarity to stay cohesive. Especially in this film; scene changes are sudden and tied often to abrupt endings of songs. Kaufman, without a click track, was a clear and definitive leader in this work. The remarkable achievement of a well-done live movie-and-music presentation is that you forget that the music is being performed separately. It becomes seamless and ordinary, simple and effortless. And to get to that point a production requires years of musical experience, top-notch musicians, and a strong visual, auditory and kinesthetic linkage. A good deal of this was in Kaufman’s hands on October 28, and the musicians were not led astray.

Read the full review on The Wholenote blog.