In J.S. Bach’s motet Jesu meine Freude one could clearly recognize director Douglas Lawrence’s penetrating interpretation, the musical shape strictly governed by the text, endowing the recurrent main melody with interesting variants. On an emotional level the gently blended voices and their balanced distribution often lent the text additional inner meaning …

… it was especially gratifying that these professionally trained, mostly young singers were met by a large audience in Ries.

Augsburger Allgemeine, Sunday July 10, 2011

Power of Darkness

The Australian Chamber Choir began its European Concert Tour in Ries with a dramatic rendition of the Battle of the Archangel Michael.

By Ernst Meyer

The Australian Chamber Choir began this year’s European Concert Tour in St. Georges Church, Nördlingen and are invited to other major German churches. After two concerts in Denmark, the highlight and final destination will be their appearance in Paris. In this context, it was especially gratifying that these professionally trained, mostly young singers were met by a large audience in Ries.

We heard indeed a performance of the highest artistic level, which included everything required for a fascinating experience. Already in Heinrich Schütz’s motet “Selig sind die Toten”  the choir’s sound floated over the listeners; so tightly juxtaposed were the long phrases that not a breath was to be heard, a result of highly sophisticated breathing technique.

Factum est Silentium

This was reflected to advantage in the richly designed coloratura of the motet “Factum est Silentium”, a dramatic setting of the Archangel Michael’s battle with the dragon by compser Richard Dering (1580-1630): The power of darkness versus the peace of Heaven vividly staged.

Penetrating Interpretation

In J.S. Bach’s motet “Jesu meine Freude” one could clearly recognize director Douglas Lawrence’s penetrating interpretation, the musical shape strictly governed by the text, endowing the recurrent main melody with interesting variants. On an emotional level the gently blended voices and their balanced distribution often lent the text additional inner meaning. With Giovanni Gabrieli’s “Jubilate Deo” the choir turned back to the Renaissance. Palpable joy and a brilliant conclusion unfortunately exposed the sopranos, who sometimes stood out a little too much.

The Pinnacle

One might have different views on experimental music, but “I heard the Owl call my name”, a piece written by 1968 born Australian composer Philip Nunn, was undoubtedly the concert’s pinnacle, not only because one so rarely gets the opportunity to hear such unusual composition, but also because this is a splendid piece of work. In principle wordless, the composer uses vocalise to depict the story of young Vicar, Mark Brian, as told in Margaret Craven’s novel of the same name. The young vicar is not aware that he will soon die. His bishop, who knows of the diagnosis, transfers him to a village of indigenous people near the Canadian border. Once there, the vicar experiences the boundaries between Anglican Church and Indigenous traditions through a legend that a man will hear an owl calling his name before his death.

Death at an Owl’s call

In the process Nunn develops an impressive portrayal of nature: Animal sounds and birdsong, cries and millings like a tropical rainforest, dissonant and unison, static and surging, in total a billowing array of colours tinged with deep sadness. When Mark Brian hears the owl, he dies not of his illness but as a result of a blow from a falling tree.

Resounding Applause

Charles Villiers Stanford returned us to familiar tonality with a “Magnificat in B-Major”. The jubilant beginning reminds us of J.S. Bach, whilst the influence of Johannes Brahms and Anton Bruckner also become evident. Stanford cannot however be considered a plagiarist but rather a creator of unique music ending with a magnificent “Gloria” which was received with resounding applause, triggering encores, the final one a full-voiced spiritual.

Translation by Hans Schroeder and Elizabeth Anderson

to read the original version in German, click on the following link: Augsburger Allgemeine Rezension

Ernst Meyer in Augsburger Allgemeine, July 10, 2011

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