In the impressive Grand Court at the Art Gallery of NSW the Australian Chamber Choir presented one of the finest concerts in Sydney this year. Their perfectly chosen program ranged from the early baroque to music from our time and all had romantic or emotional intent.
Audible gasps of delight occurred from audience members on the completion of the first work Warum ist das Licht by Brahms. Rich in harmonic invention this composition can only work when sung by a choir with the highest skills and with a rigid adherence to strict intonation. Conductor Douglas Lawrence seems effortless in his direction giving appropriate cues and controlling a most impressive dynamic range. This was delicious stuff!
Continuing with three madrigals by Monteverdi the choir showed core strength with impeccable solo line singing in two madrigals before all 18 sang a personal favourite, Cruda Amarilli. How that music from 400 years ago still sounds fresh is a marvel – but a delightful one.
Classical music lovers would have been entranced with two works that appeared in different versions from the ones that made them so well known – one created by the composer, Samuel Barber, and the other by ACC member, Elizabeth Anderson. A setting of Agnus Dei by Barber is a vocal version of his most famous work – the Adagio from his String Quartet Op 11 (also known as the Adagio for strings). This is music that is intense and at the same time deeply satisfying. It can haunt one’s sleep for days and my dreams were full of music. The other well known masterpiece was Edward Elgar’s Lux Aeterna, originally Nimrod, from his Enigma Variations. That this version sits so well in concert is a tribute to the skill of the arranger.
Melbourne composer Brenton Broadstock’s I had a dream is a simple homage to a colleague and allows the choir to shape his words with music that is immediately familiar to the listener.
Vocal gymnastics from the whole choir were the order of the day for the final work, Ravel’s exhilarating and at times breakneck speed Trois Chanson. Soprano Amelia Jones gave perfectly balanced and nuanced solos in this most delightful composition from the early part of the 20th century. It is a great concert ‘finisher’ and this is music guaranteed to send the audience home smiling.
Douglas Lawrence seems to get the right inflection of each work as if by pure intuition. He has under his direction willing musicians who want the music to shine. Sydney needs to have this ensemble visit on a regular basis and if the enthusiasm and rapt attention of the capacity audience is anything to go by there is a demand for such a group. The Australian Chamber Choir sings complex music fearlessly and it thrills the listener.
Their next concerts, Sydney and Melbourne as well as Geelong and Macedon, celebrate music for Christmas time.
Australian Chamber Choir with Director – Douglas Lawrence | Sunday September 16, 2018 | Art Gallery of NSW