Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Anton Bruckner Choir concert

I might be biased, in that I know a few of the singers in the Anton Bruckner Choir, but their concert on Saturday was excellent. The concert was held in St Giles Cripplegate, a stone-built church seemingly washed up within the concrete edifice that is the Barbican Centre. It's the first time I've visited the Barbican, and unfortunately I arrived after dark, so much of it remains a mystery to me. The fountains outside the Guildhall School of Music and Drama looked pretty, though. The more I wander through the City of London, the more I want to know what it might have looked like before WW2, before the rebuilding, when the old streets still existed. In fact, having read Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver recently, it would be fascinating to be able to go back in time just to see how different London was before the Great Fire.

The concert began with three unaccompanied motets by Bruckner: Locus iste; Os justi; and Christus factus est. These were beautifully and sensitively sung, particularly Locus iste, which because of its brevity and relative simplicity, can sometimes sound routine, the singers knowing it almost by heart. Certain moments in Christus factus est sent shivers down my spine. The singers then filed off-stage to reveal the orchestra, who played Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony. I think this was the first time I'd heard it in concert (compared to in recording), and was impressed. Pictures of storms at sea, rain on crops and other tempestuous imagery came to me during the performance: it definitely felt unfinished, unresolved, and one wonders what Schubert might have made of the final movement had he been allowed time (or cash) to complete it.

The interval provided an opportunity to quench one's thirst and chat to friends, generally about things completely unconnected with music. There was quite a good audience, with most of the pews being filled.

The main work, Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem, filled the rest of the concert. It sounded beautiful, the only flaws being that the choir was occasionally overwhelmed by the orchestra (the horns, in particular, were often a little too overpowering), and the cellos not always together. The second and fifth movements were very moving, the soprano soloist bringing both a sense of grief and comfort to her solos in the latter. The German texts were translated in the programme, and fully illustrated by Chris Dawe's notes, which indicated an eclectic choice on Brahms' part. It was interesting to see his choice of words, particularly when compared to the traditional Latin texts one usually hears.

All in all, rather a contrast to the "come and sing" Haydn's 'Nelson' Mass on Sunday evening (in which I sang). Obviously one wouldn't expect the same standards of musicianship from a bunch of singers who had come together on the night, but I did feel rather ashamed at the brevity of the concert - a mere fifty minutes. At least we didn't charge for tickets!



At Wed Nov 23, 12:00:00 am, Blogger Bourgeois Wife said...

The Barbican is my local library. I use it a lot, although I still get lost nearly every time. It's the world's most confusing building.


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