Monday, June 14, 2010

Faure and Friends Review

City of Dunedin Choir and Friends at St Paul’s Sunday 13 June
City of Dunedin Choir and guests - organist Rachel Swindells, soprano Catherine Daly-Reeve and baritone Benjamin Caukwell - directed alternately by David Burchell and Michael Dawson warmed a capacity audience at St Paul’s this Sunday with a charming selection of works by Fauré, Dupré, Saint-Saëns, Poulenc and Alain.
The subdued programme steeped its audience in the mood of the early twentieth-century as experienced and expressed by the French. The only brusque tonality here was Poulenc’s difficult “Four Small Prayers” which suffered through an initial lack of confidence, but managed to retain a sense of pitch despite the work’s harmonic convolutions. The last two prayers - “Seigneur, je vous en prie” and “O mes très chers frères” – were particularly nicely done. Unfortunately the intriguing melodic twists in Dupré’s “Laudate Dominum” were lost behind an over zealous organ accompaniment.
In an excellent line-up, the highlight goes to Fauré’s beautiful “Requiem”. Accompanied by Swindells on the organ, the choir and soloists successfully rendered its quiet menace, its awe-full melodies and teasingly short-lived climaxes to achieve ethereal excellence. Daly-Reeve’s “Pie Jesu” revealed a voice of boyish clarity and fittingly celestial quality. Caukwell’s “Libera Me” and “Offertorium” revealed a rich voice with dramatic strengths particularly in keeping the chant-like sections alive.
Alain’s delightful set of variations for organ, well played by Burchell, insinuates Janequin’s sixteenth century simplicity into the cynicism of the twentieth century. Saint-Saëns’ “Calme des Nuits”, “Les Fleurs” and “Ave Maria” revealed his other pictorial strengths away from “Danse Macabre”. The small choir in Fauré’s dulcette “Tantum Ergo” is commended, as is the unaccompanied singing throughout the programme.
Fauré’s “Cantique de Jean Racine” was sung with sweet intensity, its lyricism providing a welcome comparatively spirited interlude.
This was a programme which demanded quiet strength and was for the most part a convincing portrayal of the still and small French voice.
Marian Poole (Review published in the Otago Daily Times, Monday 14 June 2010)

No comments: