Teixeira's Te Deum March 2011

Derby Cathedral

Saturday 26 March 2011 at 7.30 p.m.

Southwell Minster

Sunday 27 March 2011 at 6.30 p.m.

Together with The Derwent Singers we were excited to be giving the out-of-London première of this lavish and grandly structured newly-discovered work from Portugal's Golden Age, by António Teixeira (1707 - after 1769).

It was written in 1734, the same year as Bach's Christmas Oratorio, but is the work of a younger man, trained in Rome, with its polychoral tradition, looking forward towards the 'galante' style which developed into the 'classical' music of Haydn, Mozart and their contemporaries. It is a large scale work, written for five four-part choirs, soloists and orchestra.

Previously only performed once in this country, by The Sixteen at a Prom in 1992, this exhilarating 80-minute setting of the Latin prayer is unpublished and only available as an edited manuscript in Lisbon. So there's been a lot of background work producing performable parts.

The Te Deum was the subject of the Come and Sing/Play on 22nd January, at St Michael and All Angels Church, Bramcote, Nottingham. Again the instrumental coaching was by early music expert Nicolette Moonen.

The performances took place on Saturday 26th March in Derby Cathedral, and on Sunday 27th March in Southwell Minster (an early evening performance). Both venues allowed us to make the most of the division into five choirs.Nicolette Moonen again led the Baroque Ensemble, an orchestra of early music specialists, and the soprano soloist was Clare Devine

Review by Mike Wheeler, in Music and Vision:

Derwent Singers and Sinfonia Chorale, Derby Cathedral, 26.3.11

The Te Deum by eighteenth-century Portuguese composer António Teixeira must hold the world record for the longest setting of this text. Its nearest rival, as far as I know, is the finale of Havergal Brian's gargantuan Gothic Symphony, which weighs in at a mere seventy-five minutes. Teixeira's setting, for soloists, five four-part choirs and orchestra, leaves half the verses to be sung to plainsong, and it still takes eighty minutes to perform.

The Derby-based Derwent Singers and their Nottingham opposite numbers, Sinfonia Chorale, both conducted by Richard Roddis, pooled their resources to mount the first two UK performances since 1992, when The Sixteen performed it at the Proms. It has been a huge undertaking, even before the the first rehearsal. Much of the material, apart from the full score used on that occasion and some of the orchestral parts, had gone missing. The hand-written full score was not scannable, and it took a team of four three months to get all the material computer-set, proof-read and printed. Fortunately the Gulbenkian Foundation, who owned the originals, waived all hire fees in return for reconstructions of the missing parts.

It all paid off, in what will certainly be remembered for a long time as one of Derby's outstanding musical events of 2011 - with, by all accounts, an equally successful performance the following day in Southwell Minster.

Teixeira exploits the spatial separation of his singers to thrilling effect - choirs answer each other in antiphonal blocks, a welter of choral sound fans out from a single voice-part to take in the entire ensemble. The combined Derwent Singers and Sinfonia Chorale had seemingly limitless reserves of both energy, for the music's rhythmic vitality, and concentration, in the passages of remarkably intricate, genuinely twenty-part choral texture.

Soprano Clare Devine took the solo role in three of the movements, successfully navigating Teixeira's exuberantly florid writing; the many other solos were confidently taken by members of the two choirs. An ad-hoc instrumental ensemble led by Nicolette Moonen matched the singers' vitality and produced playing that was both polished and incisive; the rasping edge to the sound of the natural horns in No 7 was particularly exciting.

Conductor Richard Roddis shaped a performance that was alert to the music's stylistic variety, placed as it is between the baroque world and the emerging classical style (Teixeira was a near-contemporary of Pergolesi). A logistical and artistic triumph all round.


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