CHORAL CONCERT, Thursday October 7 2010, City Hall; Verdi: Messa da Requiem; soloists Hanli Stapela, Elizabeth Frandsen, Matthew Overmeyer, Monde Masimini; Philharmonia Choir, Symphony Choir and CPO conducted by Victor Yampolsky.
DEON IRISH reviews
SOME of the most exciting concerts I attended at the City Hall in the 1970s and 1980s were choral: vivid presentations by both the CTSO”s Symphony Choir and the Philharmonia choir, each having well over a 100 singers. They included memorable performances of works as diverse as Dvorak”s Requiem, Orff”s Carmina Burana and Britten”s War Requiem. And, of course, the CTSO”s final concert before its mid-year break, traditionally concluding with the Beethoven Choral Symphony.
Both choirs fell on difficult times in the past decade, so it is very gratifying to record an increasingly apparent turn-around in their fortunes and some headway made on what we must hope will be a return to former glories.
Schools, particularly English medium, increasingly side-line the importance of musical education in the formative years, in favour of the technical or the scientific. Music is alright for talented individuals, who can access individual tuition; but the collective music-making of school choirs is increasingly a thing of the past. How short-sighted and how depressingly typical of the approach to the arts in this increasingly material society.
Listening to this combined choir of about 130 singers singing one of the great choral scores with verve, musicality and enjoyment, one was struck by how many of the faces were regular choristers, who have sung and still sing in a number of different choirs, and who discovered this lifelong joy from the experience of inspirational school music.
Bearing in mind that one was listening to two bodies of singers, trained by Antoinette Blyth and Alex Fokkens respectively, the unity of musical approach attained was pleasing and the choral contribution generally of a high order. There were, of course, moments of insecurity, of hesitant attack or of indifferent ensemble (predictably in the fugal writing, as in the Sanctus). But set against that the wonderful pianissimo of the opening sotto voce Requiem aeternam, or the stupendous outburst of the Dies Irae musical effects that can be achieved only with a great body of singers. Well done to all concerned.
The quartet of soloists included tenor Overmeyer, a last-minute replacement. The tenor is the first of the soloists to enter, with a lovely phrase that soars to a G sharp – and lovely it proved to be, with Overmeyer demonstrating a lovely tone, a confident projection and a soaring top that was beautifully placed.
This was even more evident in Ingemisco, with its delicate lyricism alternating with declamatory top B flats. Masimini toiled at the often ungrateful writing of the bass part with good results, which blossomed into excellence in Lux aeterna. Frandsen was an almost uniformly reliable presence in the ensemble writing, but the opening of Lacrymosa sounded hesitant. Stapela veered between the excellent and the indifferent. The opening Kyrie did not bode well for the coming movements and the final octave of Quid sum wasn’t. But, she came into her own later, notably in Agnus Dei.