Monday, November 28, 2022

Strong performance of popular requiem

Mozart Requiem
Saturday 26 November 2022, Knox Church

Mozart's Requiem is popular repertoire for large choirs, writes Elizabeth Bouman.

Last Saturday evening this famous requiem was sung in Knox Church by City Choir Dunedin accompanied by members of the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, Sandra Crawshaw (piano), Valerie Xiang (organ) and soloists Caroline Burchell (soprano), Claire Barton (alto), Scott Bezett (tenor) and Edward Smith (bass).

Requiem is a funeral mass, written by Mozart in the weeks before his own death. He left it unfinished, and historians like to believe he knew he was nearing the end of his own life, despite it being a commissioned work. Scored for a baroque-sized orchestra, choir and four soloists, it follows the traditional eight section sequence, with Latin text of mourning and remembrance.

Conductor David Burchell choose a good forward-moving tempo, achieving a strong performance overall.

Lacrimosa and Sanctus were highlights.

Also on the programme was a contemporary choral (2019) work, the breath of life, by American Dan Forrest (1978-).

Audience members with a programme and time to read the descriptive notes beforehand listened with an extra dimension. But without knowledge of text or theme the listener could find the work rather repetitive, swamped with thick harmonies and inexplicable orchestral statements and textures.

Perhaps a narrator between movements could have charted events, as the evocative soundscape outlined life from the miracle of birth to the bereavement of death.

Dramatic script from the Bible, classic and modern poetry set sensitive text, but not always clearly enunciated by the 70-strong choir.

The entire work was sensual and imaginative with changing colours and moods throughout, from the breathy opening, emotive cello lyricism, choral harmony climaxing the miracle of birth, life experiences, the fading of life and mourning of death.

This was the first New Zealand performance of the breath of life, and I felt Dunedin’s musicians gave a commendable performance.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times, 28 November 2022.

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