Showing posts with label Requiem. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Requiem. Show all posts

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Sung and Played from the Heart

The title, the timing and the content of Songs for Humanity (Knox Church, 1 August 2020) by City Choir Dunedin were all spot-on – so much so that one could hardly believe they were chosen (as conductor David Burchell pointed out in his preamble) before the world-wide spread of Covid-19. What could be more appropriate in the midst of so many people’s trials and tribulations than to use music’s power as a balm and salve during this devastating pandemic, and to dedicate the performance of the main work – Fauré’s Requiem – to those “who have died and will yet die” from it?

Three shorter pieces of accessible music by living composers made up the programme’s first half. In Norwegian-born Ola Gjeilo’s Song of the Universal, ably sung by all the women’s voices supported by the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra’s strings (concertmaster: Tessa Petersen) and pianist Sandra Crawshaw, alternating slow and fast sections brought out the ecstatic, aspirational quality of Walt Whitman’s poem. By contrast, in New Zealander Christopher Marshall’s more complex Pastorale – a setting of Psalm 23 for soprano solo and men’s voices with specially arranged accompaniment of strings, organ (David Burchell) and percussion – the prevailing mood was consolatory, albeit punctuated by dramatic outbursts which tested both the choir and the soloist (soprano Caroline Burchell) to the utmost, as well as assistant conductor Mark Anderson on the podium. Then came Latvian Pēteris Vasks’ Dona nobis pacem for four-part choir, strings and organ (Johnny Mottershead) – a highly effective final item, where the mostly slow-moving music’s austere diatonic language provided a series of cumulative build-ups of tension and excitement before the peaceful ending, and where conductor Burchell – now back on the podium – achieved an excellent choral blend throughout.

In his hands, too, the concert’s main work, Fauré’s Requiem, received a most sensitive and stylish interpretation. The crystalline radiance of soprano Caroline Burchell in the Pie Jesu and the darker, more anguished tones of baritone Scott Bezett in the Offertorium and the Libera me were particularly noteworthy, and the choir coped well with the subtleties of the composer’s chromatically-enhanced harmonic language. The orchestra’s lower strings (Fauré wanted no violins except for a violin solo in the Sanctus) combined with organ, horns and harp to give unfailingly appropriate support to the choir’s flowing lines, with well-judged dramatic irruptions by the horns for ‘Hosanna’ in the Sanctus and the ‘Dies Irae’ section of the Libera me, and delicious arpeggios on the organ for the In Paradisum.

Beethoven inscribed on the manuscript of his Missa solemnis these words: “From the heart – may it go back – to the heart.” The capacity audience’s response to all the items in this concert showed how deeply they felt that every musician who sang or played  in this moving and memorable event did so wholeheartedly, thereby making a worthy contribution to the maintenance of true human values in a world that sorely needs them.

Review by Donald Cullington, 2 August 2020

Photo: Ian Thomson

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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Schubert and Mozart glorious with Sinfonia and vocalists

Mozart Requiem

Saturday 28 March 2015
Knox Church

Soloists: soprano Lois Johnston, mezzo-soprano Claire Barton, tenor Matthew Wilson and baritone Robert Tucker

City Choir Dunedin, Southern Sinfonia
Conductor David Burchell

City Choir Dunedin, Southern Sinfonia invited soloists and organist Simon Mace presented two choral masterworks in Knox Church on Saturday evening, conducted by David Burchell.

The choir of more than 100 voices was in excellent form, with reasonable numbers in bass and tenor, and a noticeable presence of younger singers in all sections, promising a healthy future for this city choir.

In 1816 Franz Schubert wrote an oratorio in 12 short movements, focusing on the anguish of Mary, the Mother of Christ. Stabat Mater (D. 383) is a beautiful assemblage of Schubert minor keys, and the performance achieved tragic tones where appropriate to match the German text, with some striking contrasts and impressive dynamics.

Woodwind passages were particularly sensitive, often in tandem with a vocalist, as in Ach, was hatten wir empfunden for oboe and tenor. Soloists were Robert Tucker (baritone), Matthew Wilson (tenor) and Lois Johnston (soprano) whose delivery achieved fitting dominance in solo passages, such as "... together at the Last Judgement", where her final phrase rose triumphantly to soar above choir and instrumentalists.

Mozart's health was failing as he embarked on composing a requiem Mass.

History records interesting "facts and fiction" surrounding the work's editing and completion by others, and it survives as the great Requiem Mass in D minor K. 626. Saturday night's performance was a celebration of the legacy of beautiful music left to the world by Mozart.

Claire Barton (mezzo-soprano) joined the soloists, and quartet passages achieved good balance generally, with text conveying conviction and empathy.

Burchell drew inspirational dynamics with impressive contrasts from his choir and musicians. Passionate shading for Lacrymosa and massive jubilant tone for Sanctus were indeed highlights, filling the packed church venue with glorious sound.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman for the ODT, Monday 30 March 2015.