Saturday 14th October, St John’s Church, Carrington
If you didn’t attend this performance by the Chorale, you certainly missed a spirited, stirring rendition of 'Mozart’s' Requiem! The composer’s name is in inverted commas here as, although he is most certainly the originator in concept, how much Sussmayer embellished upon the fragments of composition completed before his death is open to speculation. This interpretation was accompanied by a piano duet, ably played by Gill Bithel, on the upper part of the keyboard and Beate Toyka on the lower half of the keyboard. The baby grand itself in St Johns Church was reasonably well tuned and the sound, with the lid fully raised, carried well to the rear of the building.
With typical Roddis zest for musical diversity, the first half of the programme opened exuberantly with a rousing spiritual, Ain’-a that Good News!, sung from memory. Juxtaposed with this was the brisk paced, Tudor Anthem, Ascendit Deus by Peter Philips. From the ancient, back to the contemporary, the sensitive and spiritual O Magnum Mysterium (composed in 1994 by Morten Lauridsen) followed. The transcendent quality remained despite some timing inaccuracies. Holst's Nunc Dimittis was possibly selected to echo and yet revise the earlier 5 part antiphony of Ascendit Deus. It was presented accurately and emotionally. The first half of the concert concluded with an animated rendition of Schubert's Fantasie in F minor, adeptly played by the guest artists Gill Bithel and Beate Toyka. The length of the applause was an indication of the positive regard, popularity and appreciation of the performance.
To describe the Mozart interpretation as dynamic and emotional is a fair reflection, I believe. Richard Roddis’ attention to expressive detail during rehearsals and the concluding performance was consistently exacting and faithful to scoring… Indeed, he repeated several times during the Tuesday night rehearsals, ‘Ooh, it’s so dramatic, isn’t it dramatic?!’ With the piano providing broad ‘orchestral’ support, so began the Requiem Aeternum. The wide dynamic range contrasted well with the solo soprano voice of Anna Worsching. The four part fugue of the Kyrie set off at a brisk pace. The modulating semiquaver theme provided forward and upward momentum to conclude on an open fifth interval. The piano accompaniment was slightly behind the choir at the beginning of the energetic and swift rendition of the Dies Irae. The Tuba Mirum for SATB soloists was ably sung by Jeremy Leaman (bass), Kelvin Steele (tenor), Sally Need (alto) and Sue Jolly (soprano). The four hands of the piano orchestra were slightly out of time in the opening of the Rex Tremendae, but the vocal rhythms were snappy and dynamics were well observed. In contrast to the dramatic Rex Tremendae, the Recordare section was more tranquil in nature. It includes another solo chapter in the Requiem. Fiona Milburn (alto) opened the passage followed by the bass (Jeremy Leaman) imitating the same theme. Clare Devine (soprano) then repeated the motif. The tenor (Matt Burton) then joined the voices for a most effective rendition of this extended quartet. The Confutatis perhaps contains the most operatic of elements with the jagged, dotted musical motif followed immediately by the angelic line, ‘voca me cum benedictis.’ The choir observed the hushed ending well here. The Chorale performed the soft lyricism of the Lacrymosa gracefully and was faithful to the dynamic markings with the beautiful muted, staccato quaver theme followed by the legato, rising crescendo ending. The Domine Deus was punctuated by the short quartet interlude with Charlotte Grimley (soprano), Christine Kirby (alto), Matt Burton (tenor) and Jeremy Leaman (bass) . There were a few stray notes from the piano early on here. The dynamic contrast in the Hostias was most effective in the acoustic. The delightful Benedictus quartet was interpreted by Clare Devine, Jeremy Leaman, Kelvin Steele and Fiona Milburn with the attaca Hosanna completing that section. The rests in the Agnus Dei were well observed, as silence is equally as important as sound. Soprano Anna Worsching opened the Lux Aeterna and the pianists considerately reduced the volume to accommodate the single voice, then adopted full force again for the tutti and line entrances. The choir sung the long subject lines of the concluding Cum Sanctis fugue energetically and effectively.
The extended applause at the end of the evening was most heartening to hear! There was a standing ovation as the conductor, then pianists, Gill Bethel and Beate Toyka took their bows. The enthusiastic reception continued as the soloists and then main choir bowed. The standing ovation was so appreciated by the choir! Listening again to the recording of the evening, what strikes me the most is the attention to dynamic detail and the high degree of accuracy when delivering the requirements of the score.