Friday, February 20, 2015

Mozart Requiem in March

Saturday 28 March, 7:30 pm
Knox Church

Conductor: David Burchell
Soloists: Lois Johnston, Claire Barton, Matthew Wilson, Robert Tucker
City Choir Dunedin
Southern Sinfonia

Schubert’s Stabat Mater (D.383)

The Stabat Mater is an ancient Latin hymn which meditates on the suffering of Christ’s mother Mary at his crucifixion. Schubert’s setting, in German translation, is relatively little-known; it has never been performed by City Choir Dunedin, and as far as is known, it has never been performed in Dunedin.

Schubert’s Stabat Mater was completed on 22 February 1816, a significant milestone in the composer’s maturation. In the period of 1815-1816, a time of serious introspection for Schubert, his songs first confronted death as subject matter. The “true” Schubert – with his mastery of orchestral colour and great gift for melody – is much apparent. A work of striking contrasts, the “Stabat Mater” begins with a portentously slow orchestral and choral movement that sets an appropriately tragic tone for the expected subject matter. Thereafter, every subsequent movement holds a musical or textural surprise and the generally upbeat movements towards the end portray a collective optimism that would seem to be at odds with their serious subject.

Mozart’s Requiem

The Requiem is a Mass for the dead, offered for the repose of the soul. Mozart’s setting, left unfinished at his death, was not the result of any known commission, in an age where composition without specific purpose was unusual. This circumstance sparked the romantic myth that it foreshadowed his own death; an idea which has enhanced its popularity, further fuelled and popularised by the film Amadeus. Many attempts have been made to complete the work; the version used by City Choir Dunedin in this concert was completed by Mozart’s pupil Süssmayr in 1791. Myths aside, its own merits ensure that Mozart’s Requiem continues to be one of the most frequently performed works in the classical choral repertoire.

Together these two works form an exquisite interpretation of the events which culminate in the Easter story. While the subject matter is tragic, both composers succeed in providing an uplifting experience ending in optimism and the peace of perfect consolation.

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