Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Stamina delivers rewarding works

Photo: Pieter du Plessis
Scheherazade & Requiem
Saturday 30 September 2017
Dunedin Town Hall

Brahms' A German Requiem is an impressive work. Large in scope and demanding large orchestral and vocal forces, it is inspired by Lutheran scripture. While those who equate value with bank balance are vigorously excluded, the rest of us who toil honestly against the odds, are portrayed as earthly particles most likely to reach sweet heaven and have no more chores ever.

The music removes any ambiguity. It is serene, melodious, warm, lush and enveloping. There is no "dies ire", no fire and brimstone; the work simply fades away at its closing "Blessed are the dead". Theatrical awe is gained via the realisation of small things such as "For all flesh is like grass" and "The dead will be raised, imperishable".

The combined forces of the City Choir Dunedin and Dunedin Symphony Orchestra under the inspired direction of Simon Over made wonderful work of this challenging, stamina-taxing requiem. Though both the soprano and tenor are inevitably overtaxed on high exposed lines, and the body of the choir labours over layered lines and staggered entries, the choir as a whole is in fine form.

It gave an energetic, committed and, at times, an inspired performance. The voices of the soloists, soprano Rebecca Ryan and baritone Jarvis Dams, were both rich and warm, well suited to the work.

Solo performances by all of the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra section leaders in Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade show the orchestra's overall strength. Tessa Petersen's solo performance of Scheherazade's voice was particularly spell-binding with some wonderful harmonics on high strings and the alluring dance well achieved. Answering passages from the lead cello, Heleen du Plessis, taking the Young Prince's voice were also well executed.

Both works created a long evening where perhaps the Brahms could have stood better alone.

Review for the Otago Daily Times by Marian Poole, 3 October 2017

Passion of a different kind was to the fore in Dunedin Symphony Orchestra's performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and Brahms' Requiem, with City Choir Dunedin.

Conducted by DSO's principal guest conductor Simon Over, the concert's first half featured the stunning Scheherazade, transporting  the audience to the Arabian Nights and the Orient.

DSO concertmaster Tessa Petersen was superb in a leading role, announcing each "tale" with a burst of solo violin, and the orchestra was on point in every aspect of the complex work.

Brahms' Requiem, a monumental and sombre work, was a powerful showcase for City Choir Dunedin, which handled its demands with aplomb. Featuring seven movements sung in German, the Requiem moved through a range of moods, from gentle pastoral sound to triumphant praise.

The DSO and organist Simon Mace provided sterling support, while soloists Jarvis Dams (baritone) and Rebecca Ryan (soprano) were equally strong.

Another thoroughly enjoyable showcase from two Dunedin musical treasures.

Review for The Star by Brenda Harwood, 5 October 2017

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