Review: BBC NOW - Mozart's Requiem @ SDH
2016 is alive with cultural celebrations.
Cardiff will see many tributes to Roald Dahl, one of our most famous residents. Music-wise we have two big French titans: Erik Satie and Henri Dutilleux. Satie's time will come in May, with his 150th birthday bash, but Dutilleux is all the rage now.
On his 100th birthday, BBC NOW paid tribute to a composer who almost made this staggering birthday (he died in 2013, aged 97). His ties to Cardiff were strong, as I was witness to him becoming an Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University after a weekend celebration of his music, back in 2008. You don't forget moments like that...
Two of his compositions opened this New Year concert. Firstly, Metaboles was a brief showcase for the orchestra, showing off all those stupendous timbres Dutilleux loved to tinker with so much. It shifts and sways through an evocative orchestration and is a swell reminder of this French master who isn't as well-known as he should be.
In his Sur Le Meme Accord (On The Same Chord), Akiko Sueanai is our solo violinist, in a work with not much going for it. At times pastiche, at others feeling like second-hand Debussy, it's even too small to be considered a violin concerto. She remained for the UK premier of one of many Debussy completions by Robert Orledge. In this tiny Nocturne, Orledge never feels like an intruder in these several unfinished works, but brilliantly brings them finally to life. This had lovely passages, evident with the smoke infused, exotic and mellifluous sound world Debussy would gift to French music.
The stalls for this concert appeared fully booked. I'm guessing they were to hear Mozart's Requiem and weren't actually having a party with hats on, for Dutilleux. Perhaps Mozart's most famous choral work, the Requiem in an hour of unusual morbidity and contemplation. It can be led accountable for this in its labelling as being in D minor, a murky and sombre way to portray a work. With the heart-rending Introitus, to the haunting and immortal Lacimosa, this all amounts to a work of great spirituality and a bucket list concert experience.
The flawless chorus are always immaculate; the orchestra were grand as always and the four soloists bringing light to a near unbearable work of music. Rebecca Evans replaced Susan Gritton and sang with her typically impassioned readings of the vocal line. Jennifer Johnston, a mezzo with a great presence and handling of these lower notes. Timothy Robinson, doesn't really appear much here on his own, but adding swell tenor colour to the quartet's passages. Alastair Miles is an amazing bass who never lets the bass part engulf the other singers' harmonies.
Much is said of how much of the Requiem Mozart did in fact write (it was his last work and was completed by Franz Xaver Sussmayr). Similar to the Debussy/Orledge process, here also feels like no disturbances have been made. It's some of Mozart's greatest moments for choir and soloists.
An evocative night of French illusions and beautifully morbidity.
Rating: 3 Stars
The Dutilleux centenary celebrations continue with BBC NOW with Dutilleux Impressions, a concert featuring his music and other composers at Hoddinott Hall, WMC on Wednesday 27th January 2016.
A free Dutilleux symposium is at Cardiff University Concert Hall on Thursday 28th January 2016. Speakers include Eric Tanguy, Julian Anderson, Caroline Potter and Caroline Rae. The opening address will be presented by Her Excellency Madame Sylvie Bermann, Ambassador of France to the United Kingdom.
Future concerts at Cardiff University are Tuesday 2nd February 2016 with Quatuor Psophos playing his Ainsi La Nuit. 15th March 2016 sees The Riot Ensemble perform his Les Citations. All details on these concerts and the symposium here.
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Photo Credit: BBC.co.uk