Australian Brandenburg Orchestra: Paradisum – Basic Melbourne

Making their very welcome return to Melbourne because the pandemic made interstate journey and large-scale concert events close to inconceivable, the Sydney-based Australian Brandenburg Choir and Orchestra made a triumphant return to the Melbourne Recital Centre Stage in a French impressed program entitled Paradisum.

The live performance started with a number of phrases from ABO co-founder, Creative Director and conductor Paul Dyer AO, who shared with the viewers a number of of his early childhood experiences which not directly had impressed this fastidiously curated program. Firstly, he recalled performing the Fauré Requiem as a treble, aged simply 11, after which recounted a go to to Paris he made as a 12-year-old, and his first go to to the well-known L’église de la Madeleine, and the impression it made on him. It’s price noting that the much-revered Italian-born, French-adopted composer Jean Baptiste Lully was simply 14 when he was chosen to be an Italian tutor for a cousin of Louis XIV and moved to Paris. A robust reminder of the significance of exposing younger folks to prime quality musical alternatives and the significance of journey.

Together with his customary aptitude for element, Dyer started proceedings with a poignant and silent reminder of the pandemic-induced hiatus in ABO’s touring program. On a dimly lit recital centre stage, with solely the gilded harpsichord illuminated, Dyer took a rating, stepped into the sunshine, and theatrically blew mud from it earlier than a notice was heard. The gesture was not misplaced on the viewers, solely too conscious of the “very long time between drinks” it has been for thus a lot of our nation’s performing artists over the past two years.

The primary half of this live performance featured Musique de la Reine (The Queen’s Music), a “Pasticcio” created by Dyer primarily based on a collection of shorter works by composers who all wrote for the French Court docket at varied occasions. Starting with Dyer seated on the harpsichord, we heard Quand le flambeau du monde quitte l’autre séjour, a courtroom tune by Charles Tessier, a lutenist within the courtroom of Henri IV. Showing in semi-darkness, with fastidiously designed lighting recreating the candle-lit environment of the previous, the “mud” having became a cloud of incense floating above,  a consort of 5 voices and a small band of Baroque strings and percussion entered the stage in pairs, making a dignified air of solemnity to the musical “ceremony” that was to comply with. Sopranos Astrid Girdis and Elise Morton, joined by counter-tenor Michael Burden, tenor William Varga and bass Aidan O’Donnell made for a powerful consort certainly, notable for his or her well-blended sound and glorious intonation and diction which was sensitively supported by the consort that includes Dyer’s harpsichord and the twin theorbos of Tommie Anderson and Nicholas Pollock.

With out pause, and with delicate lighting and cautious choreography returning the main focus to the harpsichord as the opposite performers moved out of the highlight, we had been handled to Dyer’s efficiency of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Le Rappel des Oiseaux (The Waking Name of the Birds) taken from the Suite in E minor for Harpsichord, revealed in Paris in 1724. Offering a musical hyperlink to the subsequent merchandise, it additionally supplied Dyer with an opportunity to share his apparent pleasure for this repertoire, with a chirpy and filigree efficiency referencing the fantastic thing about nature’s personal music. This was instantly adopted by one other “air de cour” from the Ballet de la Reine (Queen’s Ballet) of 1619 by Antoine Boësset, Nos esprits libres et contents (Our minds free and glad).A sublime, stately, but pretty solemn work for 4 voices and devices, the excellent mix and stability of the Brandenburg’s vocal consort was once more evident, with Aidan O’Donnell’s engaging bass voice offering a strong basis for the opposite singers, and the sunshine unforced tenor of William Varga balancing properly with the well-rounded timbre of alto Michael Burden.

Marin Marais’ Prélude en harpeggement, No. 46 from Suite No. 3 in F main, Livre Vfollowed, offering completed Viola da Gamba participant Anthea Cottee with a uncommon second within the highlight as a soloist, utilising the excellent acoustics of the Elisabeth Murdoch Corridor to focus on the fantastic thing about this magnificent six-stringed baroque instrument. A mainstay of baroque orchestras as a consort and continuo instrument, it was a deal with to listen to the ’gamba performed right here as a solo instrument in all its glory.

Nicolas Chédeville lived from 1705 – 1782 and was significantly sought-after as a musette trainer by members of the French aristocracy, and one among his college students was Princess Victoire, daughter of King Louis XV.  On this program his contribution to Dyer’s pasticcio was a largo taken from his Sonata in G minor, Op. 13 No. 6. This was swiftly adopted a vigorous Allegro motion by Jean-Baptiste Quentin from the Sonata in A minor, Op. 15 No. 3. A recent of Rameau and Marais, Quentin was a much-loved composer of courtroom music in his day, and this spirited Allegro was initially the primary motion of a sonata for flute, violin viola da gamba and harpsichord.

All through the whole program, the consort of Brandenburg strings (led by the duelling baroque violins of Shaun Lee-Chen and Ben Dollman, and supported by Monique O’Deal on baroque viola and Anthea Cottee on viola da gamba) performed with spectacular vitality and rhythmic precision. Offering color and distinction was the inclusion of Brian Nixon’s delicate percussion at varied factors in this system, and the theorbos and baroque guitars of Tommie Andersson and Nicholas Pollock, along with Dyer’s harpsichord, made for a superb array of instrumental colors and ever-changing musical textures.

Borrowing from the late Renaissance, Dyer included the 1570 chanson J’ayme trop mieux souffrir la mort (I a lot want to undergo dying) by Guillaume Costeley – the earliest composer represented on this live performance. From 1560 he was composer within the courtroom of French King Charles IX.

Bringing this elegantly curated pasticcio to an in depth was Boësset’s À la fin cette bergère – one other air de cour, however not like the extra sedate examples heard earlier, this one was semi-staged and featured a musical soundscape which was full of fireside.  A lover is gloating: his shepherdess Phyllis, as soon as aloof, is now caught beneath the identical spell as he. “We dwell beneath the identical regulation, since I maintain her mine.” Once more the consort of voices displayed an exemplary mix and stability, however on this piece they had been additionally in a position to present slightly extra character. There was a powerful swagger to Aidan O’Donnell’s bass (full with jacket casually draped over his shoulder), and I used to be always drawn to the expressive qualities of alto Michael Burden’s efficiency, all the time emotionally attentive to the textual content and engaged together with his fellow performers. Soprano Astrid Girdis introduced herself mendacity casually throughout a number of chairs on the entrance of the stag – reinforcing the nonchalant, virtually seductive character of this music.

After ready patiently to indicate their appreciation, the spectacular mixture of voices and devices on this piece introduced untimely applause from the viewers, nevertheless it was reduce quick by the baroque guitar of Nicholas Pollock and percussion of Brian Nixon, which introduced one ultimate instrumental merchandise – Lully’s Marche pour la Cérémonie des Turcs from Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, LWV 43 – a ballet play which satirises makes an attempt at social climbing and the bourgeois character, poking enjoyable each on the vulgar, pretentious middle-class and the useless, snobbish aristocracy in baroque France. This March, which begins a Turkish “ceremony” within the play, supplied Dyer and his band of merry minstrels one final probability to share their musical pleasure with the viewers and ship a rousing “baroque jam session” to convey the primary half to a rollicking conclusion, the inclusion of bass drum and tambourine including an unique contact.

Paul Dyer always infuses his performances with an infectious joie de vivre, which carries his musicians and viewers together with a fascinating vitality and enthusiasm. This pasticcio, although usually understated and virtually verging on sombre at occasions, was nonetheless infused with satisfying pleasure which clearly happy the viewers, who headed to the interval with a spring of their step and a newfound appreciation of music of the French Court docket.

After the interval we moved ahead in time, to the late nineteenth century. Maybe one essentially the most cherished of all sacred choral works, Fauré’s well-known Requiem Op. 48 was composed between 1887 and 1890. On this efficiency we heard the charming 1889 model for chamber orchestra.

The choral-orchestral setting of the shortened Catholic Mass for the Lifeless (in Latin) is the best-known of his giant works and is now entrenched as one of the widespread of all Requiem settings – a reminder of what a tragedy it’s that Faure wrote so few prolonged works. Composed in seven actions, Requiem is scored for soprano and baritone soloists, combined choir, orchestra and organ. Totally different from many different Requiem settings, the total sequence of the Dies irae is omitted, changed by a Pie Jesu. The ultimate motion In Paradisum is predicated on a textual content that’s not a part of the liturgy of the funeral Mass, however of the burial.

Fauré noticed dying as a “joyful deliverance, an aspiration in the direction of happiness above, slightly than as a painful expertise” and stated of his Requiem, “Every little thing I managed to entertain by the use of non secular phantasm I put into my Requiem, which furthermore is dominated from starting to finish by a really human feeling of religion in everlasting relaxation.”

As a composer, Fauré is justifiably thought to be one of many masters of the French artwork tune, or mélodie, and the allure of his Requiem is the way in which he infuses the textual content with such stunning and sometimes mild melodic materials, resulting in it typically being described as “a lullaby of dying” due to its predominantly mild character.

The forces employed on this efficiency had been very near these of the 1889 model. Fauré known as upon a choir about forty in quantity consisting of boys and males (the Madeleine didn’t admit feminine choristers on the time), a solo boy treble (right here changed with the now acquainted grownup soprano soloist), harp, timpani, organ, and strings (solo violin, divided violas, divided cellos and basses). For a efficiency on the Madeleine in Might 1888 Fauré had added horn and trumpet components, and these had been additionally included, and likewise included on this efficiency.

Conducting his mixed forces, Dyer’s vast gestures invited a spacious and unhurried account of the opening motion, creating vital calls for on his singers. Regardless of a slight pitch slip from the higher voices very early on within the first motion, the choir typically carried out with distinction and delivered a cultured and memorable efficiency.

A characteristic all through was the pleasing timbre of the Brandenburg Choir’s tenor and (male) alto sections, which, coupled with a crystalline soprano line made for a lot of heavenly moments, significantly within the softer passages.

The physique of strings responded to Dyer’s sense of urgency at the beginning of the Offertoire led by the violas, who produced a wealthy, virtually romantic sound when wanted. On this motion the standard of the decrease voices within the choir additionally grew to become evident, with an uncommon readability and great thing about tone demonstrated by each the alto and bass sections of the choir, significantly within the two “O Domine” sections of this motion. The beneficiant acoustic significantly lends itself to singers, enabling loads of house and suggestions on stage, with out ever resulting in distortion or lack of readability for the viewers. Choirs don’t should work laborious to be heard right here, and pianissimo singing is rewarded with no lack of diction.

Rising from the choir to sing the acquainted Baritone solos was Hayden Barrington, who delivered a cultured and good-looking studying of each the Hostias and Libera me sections. His gentle baritone voice was definitely extra current within the higher register the place he sang with stunning ringing tone and easy management, however maybe at occasions lacked slightly energy within the lowest passages. He was supported by some beautiful interval horn enjoying from Michael Dixon and Graham Nichols, who each added each energy and drama within the transient moments of the Dies Irae.

Hovering above the angelic sopranos within the Sanctus was Shaun Lee Chen’s violin solo. A second of chic magnificence when performed with such consideration to intonation and phrasing. There was a stunning stability between sopranos and baritones on this motion too, the latter singing with heat and spectacular management, by no means overpowering their musical colleagues. Maybe greater than every other motion, the Sanctus demonstrates the ethereal qualities which have led some to explain Fauré’s Requiem as a “lullaby of dying”.

Initially written for a boy soprano, the well-known Pie Jesu supplies one other second of placing distinction on this Requiem setting, Fauré’s delicate orchestration enabling it to be carried out by a lighter voice than could also be anticipated in lots of works of this era. Showing in white, and illuminated on the entrance of the stage, Brandenburg soprano Bonnie de la Hunty was a perfect soloist for the Pie Jesu. Radiant, each visually and musically, Hunty projected a clarion tone, coupled with safe intonation, a delightful heat in her decrease register and well-controlled phrasing. The fragile stability of the Klop Chamber Organ, strings and harp supplied a perfect degree of accompaniment and by no means dominated.

While it’s generally anticipated {that a} bigger organ is required for this work, the fantastic thing about the chamber model and its smaller forces is {that a} smaller instrument can be utilized successfully. On this occasion, the enjoying of organist Heidi Jones on the candy sounding Klop chamber organ inside the ensemble made for a homogenous and balanced sound with out overpowering the small string orchestra or the choir, but supplied simply sufficient energy within the extra dramatic moments of the rating. This was significantly evident within the Agnus Dei and Libera me, the place the pure energy of the choir was in a position to create the mandatory gravitas slightly than counting on the organ (which is so usually too highly effective for the remainder of the ensemble when performed on a romantic sized instrument).

Certainly, regardless of all their hushed and reverential singing within the quieter passages, Dyer was nonetheless in a position to elicit some spectacular energy from his Brandenburg Choir within the Requiem’s extra dramatic moments. It was a powerful physique of sound, with the baritones and basses particularly offering an actual power and superb tone when known as upon by their conductor.  Responding to his outstretched arms, which had been begging for a passionate response, they all the time delivered.

Solely a matter of hours earlier than the beginning of this live performance, bombs had began falling on Ukraine, and the world watched in disbelief as struggle as soon as once more descended on Europe. For simply a short while, all these of us current at this live performance had been taken to a different (higher) place, and because the mellifluous sopranos of the great Brandenburg Choir sang Fauré’s In Paradisum, with the solo violin heard hovering excessive above, we had been all momentarily transported to Paradise.

This live performance can be repeated on Saturday 26 February at 7:00 PM, and once more on Sunday 27 February at 5:00 PM.

Picture credit score: Keith Saunders


Andrew Wailes reviewed “Paradisum”, carried out by the Australian Brandenburg Choir and Orchestra on the Melbourne Recital Centre on February 24, 2022.

Andrew Wailes is well-known to Melbourne audiences as Creative Director and Chief Conductor of the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra, and as a contract conductor and chorusmaster of varied choral and orchestral ensembles in Melbourne, and round Australia. He usually seems with native teams together with Melbourne College Choral Society, Field Hill Chorale, and is presently getting ready a brand new skilled kids’s refrain in Melbourne for Opera Australia.


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