I’d been looking forward to this concert since the Brandies announced they were going to perform Mozart’s (and Sussmäyr’s) masterwork – the Requiem – months ago. I am a choir tragic, but mostly a big Mozart tragic and it’s been a long time since I’ve heard this work live and what better choir than the Brandenburg Voices to sing it. And boy, did they sing it!
To warm us for the big Requiem we were treated to a first half of some of the most beautiful young voices I’ve heard in Sydney for a while – clearly too long since I heard the Gondwana Choirs. We met two of the choristers in the lift on the way into the Hall and their enthusiasm was inspiring. Anna Sandström conducted the future ABO Choir, made up of young people from 21 schools around Sydney, and they sung like they had sung together for years. Stunning precision, phrasing and intonation, all sung from memory, and the best stage moves in town. I was in the same office with Lyn Williams in about 2003 when she wrote the Festive Alleluia and it still makes me happy – a great way to start a concert and we loved the a capella choir singing in the aisles.
The Brandenburg Young Voices sang a Swedish Gaudete (Christmas carol) and Salva nos, stella maris, with beautiful drumming from Brian Nixon, a favourite piece from my old days with the Renaissance Players. Off with the young and on with the slightly older Brandenburg Voices for a stunning rendition of Palestrina’s Alma Redemptoris Mater, who sung with soulful yearning in the quiet sections.
Hark, what is that light in the upper balconies? A Godtet of four heavenly soloists (soprano Amy Moore, alto Max Riebl, tenor Paul Sutton and bass Alexander Knight) for a rousing rendition of di Lasso’s Matona Mia Cara, complete with precision harmonies and acting! A lovely taste of what was to come after interval.
Rutter to die-hard choir fans, is like ice-cream at interval – divine. The Young Voices proceeded through a carol and a hymn from the English choirmaster and the choir were heavenly with a smaller 9-part version of the orchestra and fantastic organ playing from Heidi Jones – meaning you could actually hear the choir perfectly. To finish a stunning first half, what better than to finish with an all-time, very triumphant and joyous, crowd favourite – the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah. I had to stop myself from singing the soprano part.
Interval equals the aforementioned ice cream and general excitement was building for the Requiem. Thankfully no one mentioned ‘that movie’ so we were prepared to be moved. With the young voices sent home to their slumber, the full force of the orchestra returned with the fantastic Brandenburg Voices and the Godtet. Interestingly the Voices consist of only female sopranos and the rest of the choir, including the altos, sung by the men. This gave quite a nice warm resonance and a ‘period’ feel to the whole concert. I love the opening to the Requiem, and tonight we were treated to two bassoons and two basset horns underwriting the beautiful voice of Amy Moore before the rousing choir gave us a tease of the full sound. The Requiem continued at a cracking pace through all the favourites – the Dies Irae made my whole row sit up straight in the audience (the brass were fantastic!) and the Lacrimosa showed off the best string playing from the orchestra all night. These early movements also posed difficult not to hum along.
As the Requiem sped towards the final movements, mostly written by Mozart’s student Sussmäyr, Paul Dyer slowed things respectfully down as we could not bear thinking of ‘that movie’ and Mozart’s demise. The Orchestra were once again magnificent, if a little light in the bass end of town, but the addition of basset horns makes a girl happy. My only complaint – there was no encore! What’s one more Dies Irae between friends…?
Mozart Requiem: 100 Voices can be heard again on 6 and 11 May at the City Recital Hall, Sydney, and 7 and 8 May at the Melbourne Recital Hall.