Showing posts with label Beauty of Baroque. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beauty of Baroque. Show all posts

Monday, April 2, 2012

Baroque celebration enjoyable

Beauty of Baroque, Knox Church, Friday, March 30

Knox Church in Dunedin was packed on Friday evening for "Beauty of Baroque", presented by City of Dunedin Choir, Southern Sinfonia, David Burchell, guest organist Simon Mace and six soloists - sopranos Pepe Becker and Grace Park, mezzo-soprano Amanda Cole, counter-tenor Christopher John Clifford, tenor Stephen Chambers and bass Julien van Mellaerts.

Handel filled the first half of the programme, beginning with Utrecht Te Deum (1713), a grand work with sacred text for choir, soloists and baroque orchestra. From the very intro of this work, I felt the orchestra set a good performing standard for the entire evening, bright toned with well-judged subtle trumpet gilding.

The choir too, was in excellent form, generally well-balanced, despite the 23 to 7 ratio of basses to tenors, but I had mixed feelings about some of the solo work.

Soprano duet To Thee Cherubin and Seraphin, achieved a fine blend, but some of Becker's later work, although well-intoned, showed disappointing technical support at climactic exposures. Cole's lower register lacked fullness of tone, with lower melodic phrases regularly falling short in projection. Her When thou tookest upon thee ... was totally overshadowed by glorious woodwind counter melodies.

Commendable counter-tenor tone quality was regularly lost through "head in the book" syndrome, consequently undermining vocal ensemble balance.

Tenor and bass delivered with beautiful tone, intelligent phrasing, and prudent strength. Laetatus Sum (Charpentier) and J S Bach's Magnificat showed similar vein, though a highlight was a tenor solo sung by Chambers with realistic fortitude and conviction.

A brilliant performance of Concerto in B Flat for Organ Op 4 no.2 by Handel showed Burchell as master of the pipe organ. Supreme dexterity ensured clarity and unblemished co-ordination throughout four short movements of contrapuntal texture. Nicholas Cornish conducted the ensemble from his position at 1st oboe.

Review in the ODT, 2 April 2012, by Elizabeth Bouman

Were you there? What did you think of this performance? We welcome feedback from the audience! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tuesday rehearsal for Beauty of Baroque

Enjoy these images from last night's rehearsal for the Beauty of Baroque concert on Friday evening. The rehearsal went very well, although it is always initially difficult to get used to the different space and acoustics, when we first rehearse in the concert venue. The start of the rehearsal was accompanied by frowns, but by the end of the evening there were smiles all round and David declared the sound to be quite astounding - this is going to be a good concert!

Beauty of Baroque
Friday 30 March, 7:30pm at Knox Church

The City of Dunedin Choir presents the grandeur and exuberance of the pearls of Baroque music.

Conductor: David Burchell
Soloists: Pepe Becker (soprano), Grace Park (soprano), Amanda Cole (mezzo-soprano), Christopher John Clifford (countertenor),  Stephen Chambers (tenor) and Julien van Mellaerts (bass)
Orchestra: Southern Sinfonia

Bach: Magnificat (BWV 243)
Handel: Utrecht Te Deum and Organ Concerto Op. 4 no. 2 in B Flat
Charpentier: Laetatus sum

The programme includes the breathtaking Magnificat composed by J.S. Bach in 1723. The impact of this great choral work derives essentially from Bach’s remarkable ability to balance, yet at the same time to exploit to the full, the spiritual and dramatic elements of the concise text of the Magnificat. It is a sublime pearl from an era rich in choral glory.

Stephen Chambers (tenor), recently described as having a “beautiful lyrical tenor voice”, is in Dunedin on a rare visit home. This is an opportunity to witness his progress on the international stage.

The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music. The style started around 1600 in Rome, Italy and spread to most of Europe. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word baroque is derived from the Portuguese word "barroco", Spanish "barroco", or French "baroque", all of which refer to a "rough or imperfect pearl".

Friday, March 23, 2012

Utrecht Te Deum a Hymn of Praise

Handel wrote the Utrecht Te Deum in early 1713, and it was performed together with his Utrecht Jubilate at the Thanksgiving service for the Peace of Utrecht in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on 7 July. It was his first composition for a state celebration, and helped to establish his reputation as a composer in London.

Handel's Utrecht Te Deum is the opening work in City of Dunedin Choir's concert "Beauty of Baroque" on Friday 30 March, 7:30 pm in Knox Church, George Street, Dunedin

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Statue of Mary and Elizabeth at the Church of the
Visitation at Ein Kerem in Israel, on the site where the
meeting between Mary and Elizabeth is said to have taken
place, with Mary singing her song of praise.
Johann Sebastian Bach had risen to the high point of his musical career when he was appointed Cantor of the Thomasschule at St Thomas Church in Leipzig in 1723, aged 38 – the position he held for 27 years, until his death.

Among his myriad teaching and performance responsibilities – including choirmaster and teaching Latin at St Thomas School, one of the oldest schools in the world (founded 1212) – his duties also included composition: cantatas for church services every Sunday and other holy days in the church calendar, as well as masses and motets for special occasions.

The Latin Magnificat was required to be sung at least three times a year, at Christmas Day, Easter Sunday and Whitsunday. Considering he was required to produce these pieces at least three times a year for almost 30 years, it’s surprising then that only one Magnificat still exists – the BWV243 in D major completed in 1733.

He originally wrote the Magnificat in E flat (BWV243a) for Christmas 1723 and reworked it in D major 10 years later, the form we sing today, but this time for use at Easter.

The Magnificat is notable for its brevity – at slightly less than 600 bars, it is considerably shorter than the Credo from Bach’s Mass in B Minor.

With the exception of the words “omnes generationes” From the Archives (every generation), which receive particular treatment, each of the 12 movements represents a stanza of St Luke’s narrative of the conversation between Jesus’ mother Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. Both are pregnant – Elizabeth with the future John the Baptist and Mary somewhat surprisingly.

Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith and Mary sings the Magnificat in response: “My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit doth rejoice in God my saviour… for behold from henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed”. What a remarkable statement from a girl in her position, pregnant, vulnerable and liable to be punished or even stoned.

Half of the 12 movements in the Magnificat are choruses and the others for solo voices, including a rare alto-tenor duet.

We’ve all been intrigued during practice by the possibility of hidden numerological significance in the “omnes generationes” (No. 4 p. 17), perhaps relating to the numerological value of Bach’s name, or the 41 entries of that phrase coinciding with the generations of Jesus’ ancestry. Others postulate this is nonsense as the phrase (“all generations shall call me blessed”) clearly refers to future generations, not past.

Bach often included clever numerical conundrums so we can’t rule it out.

By Scott Blackwell

Don't miss City of Dunedin Choir's concert "Beauty of Baroque" where Bach's Magnificat will be the featured work. Friday 30 March, 7:30 pm in Knox Church, George Street, Dunedin

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pearls of Baroque

Our Beauty of Baroque concert on March 30 includes some of the most sublime pearls from an era rich in choral glory.

Baroque music was written from about 1600 to approximately 1750, and coincided with a great growth of wealth and trade in Europe. The growth of trade led to an unprecedented sharing of ideas in science and the arts. As a result, music flourished, particularly in the great cathedrals and with a new wealthy audience of traders and tradesmen.

This era saw the birth of the industrial revolution and the chaotic growth of city states. Perhaps in reaction to the grime, ugliness and poverty of life in the burgeoning cities, the art and music of the Baroque era is of exaggerated beauty compared with the stark beauty of early Renaissance music.

The term Baroque is thought to have originated from a Portuguese word meaning an irregular shaped pearl. The new music forms were certainly radically different from earlier forms – with so much more artifice and decoration, each phrase perfumed with ornate turns and curlicues.

The term Baroque initially implied strangeness and extravagance in art. It was only applied to music of that era in the 20th century.

Opera and the orchestra were both creations of the era as were many musical forms which shaped all the European music which followed – particularly polyphonic (many voiced) forms such as the fugue and canon. Baroque music was considered as much an intellectual challenge as it was an artistic and spiritual feat.

Bach’s Magnificat (BWV 243), written in 1733, is an intellectual masterpiece, for sure, but it also a musical gem of breathtaking beauty. Handel’s Utrecht Te Deum (1713) was his first major choral work in English, and his first commission for the English Royal family, which established his career in London. And Charpentier was a prolific French composer of the late 1600s, often associated with the author Moliere, but now less well known outside France than Bach and Handel.

By Scott Blackwell

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Half a dozen soloists

We are getting really excited now about the next City of Dunedin Choir concert -  
Beauty of Baroque 
Rehearsals started last Tuesday and straight away we made a huge dent in the Handel Utrecht Te Deum. Sounding so powerful - what a big sound! Handel certainly knew how to compose a good tune. We also took a wee bite from the Bach Magnificat - how grand!

The soloists have now all been signed up for this concert - a wonderful line-up:

Pepe Becker (soprano)
Grace Park (soprano)
Amanda Cole (mezzo-soprano)
Christopher John Clifford (countertenor)
Stephen Chambers (tenor)
Julien van Mellaerts (bass)               Read more about his concert and mark the date in your diary!