Melbourne Chamber Orchestra: Dixit Dominus

“Dixit Dominus” was marketed by Melbourne Chamber Orchestra as “A feast for lovers of Handel and an uplifting finish to our musical yr”. It was actually that – and extra. For these attending this live performance, it was, most importantly, the ultimate live performance of William Hennessy AM as Director of MCO and the top of an period. It’s tough to think about who might presumably exchange an artist with such an impressive checklist of accomplishments as violinist, musical director and educator.

Along with the musical feast, phrases of appreciation featured. Hennessy himself spoke about his personal passions and the vital function that magnificence performs in his elementary reference to music. Not that he thought that every one music must be lovely – the ugly too has its place, and we noticed slightly of that in one of many extra strident components among the many beauties of Matt Laing’s Pantomime. Hennessy’s function as an educator and nurturer of younger musical expertise was additionally obvious. Being a passionate advocate of Australian composers, and a member of College on the Australian Nationwide Academy of Music when Laing was a viola pupil there and starting to make his approach as a younger composer of notice, Hennessy’s selection of Pantomime for this program was eminently applicable. The inclusion of a few younger violinists within the ensemble additional highlighted Hennessy’s ongoing devotion to the event of future performers.

Works by Handel bookended a program that started along with his Concerto Grosso in D main Op. 6 No. 5 and concluded with Dixit Dominus. The six brief actions of the Concerto Grosso displayed the strengths of the MCO strings and Hennessy as a vigilant, energetic chief. The bodily association of divided strings separated by the continuo devices was excellent for following the to-and-fro of the 2 concertino violins – Hennessy and Natalia Harvey. The vitality and precision invested by Hennessy within the Overture’s opening solo passage of buoyant dotted rhythms set the tone for every little thing that adopted. Harvey offered an expressive counterpoint and Elina Faskhitdinova was a warmly eloquent third member of the concertino trio, most notably within the Largo. Cleanly articulated scale passages, properly contrasting dynamics, thrilling exchanges between concertino and ripieno strings, full string tone within the dancing fifth Allegro motion, and a sleek closing Menuet created a joyful environment.

Hennessy’s association for string orchestra of Poulenc’s Quatre petits prières de Saint François d’Assise mirrored a big second in his musical improvement. In his introduction to the work, he described the primary musically defining second in his life: first listening to Beethoven’s second Razumovsky string quartet in Sydney and realizing “that’s the kind of factor my life needs to be about”. A sequel was discovering the fantastic thing about Poulenc’s music in his teenagers – a way that new music didn’t should be so ugly. He hoped that the viewers wouldn’t thoughts that it was not sung by a set of male voices for which it was written; as an alternative, Hennessy scored the work for violins, utilizing the G string solely because the tenor voice with different components distributed round. 4 “little prayers”, characterised by recommendations of Gregorian chant, started with some lush string tone of Salut, Dame Sainte. Block dynamics and a softly reverberating Tout puissant was adopted by an expansive Seigneur, je vous en prie. The ultimate, O mes très chers frères, with its preliminary mellow solo violin on the G string, Poulenc known as “a easy solo … like a monk main his brothers in prayer”. It’s unlikely that anyone would have had the slightest objection to this evocative, finely sculpted association.

Matt Laing offered useful verbal and musical info in his introduction to his programmatic work, Pantomime, impressed by the Tim Burton poem The Melancholy Demise of Oyster Boy. It tells the surreal story – which Laing recited – of a boy born half human half oyster, and the way the self-interest of those that are supposed to look after him result in his dying. Quirkily humorous, it’s primarily a darkish story, musically rendered in a rigorously constructed interweaving of motifs that the musicians demonstrated previous to efficiency. A narrator, the dad and mom who wished a lady and are completely oblivious to what was happening, Oyster Boy himself and his dying – embodied in a excessive E-string notice – adopted a disturbing however ingenious musical trajectory. At solely 9 minutes period, a second enjoying would have been welcome with a purpose to recognize the work extra totally.

A definite change of temper got here with one other six-movement Concerto Grosso, this time Corelli’s in G minor, Op. 6 No. 8. With the title fatto per la notice di Natale (made for a Christmas night time), an appropriately seasonal theme was integrated. Using a lot the identical forces because the Handel, brief, contrasting actions drew on the virtuosic abilities of the performers. As soon as once more, there was some lovely interweaving of the 2 concertino violins within the third, Adagio Allegro -Adagio motion, with Hennessy’s cadenza including spectacular brilliance.

Below the baton of Michael Fulcher, Director of Polyphonic Voices, Handel’s exhilarating Dixit Dominus was carried out with ability and gusto by instrumentalists and the singers alike. The members of the 21-voice choir have been deployed in blocks surrounding the strings and harpsichord, in a sequence of alto, sopranos, bass then tenor. This association gave a lot higher prominence to the alto and tenor strains than typical, the consequence being that every one components could possibly be heard far more clearly than is usually the case, particularly in fugal and canonic passages. Having a robust alto soloist in Alex Ritter stand nearest to the sting of the stage elevated the aural presence of the alto line, as was the case with the positioning of tenor Timothy Reynolds. The crystalline, pure soprano voices of Amelia Jones and Ailsa Webb, floated with well-matched, bell-like ease from behind the gamers, whereas baritone Lachlan McDonald contributed successfully in solo and ensemble sections. Regardless of the occasional slight blurring of some florid choral passages, clear assault, precision and readability have been hallmarks of this efficiency. Amongst its many virtues, the penultimate motion delivered a particular spotlight. Following an introduction of gently plucked strings, the 2 soprano soloists drew an beautiful line of magnificence, underpinned by very delicate, relaxed singing from the tenors, who simply sat there unobtrusively. An exultant “Gloria” made a becoming finale to the musical a part of this system.

Following a brief speech of thanks by MCO Chair, Fran Thorne, who honoured him for his creative integrity and dedication to great thing about sound, William Hennessy had the ultimate phrase. He apologised for any errors he might need made in the beginning and expressed gratitude for the chance to study. He additionally paid tribute to those that have supported Melbourne Chamber Orchestra over time. As he spoke optimistically concerning the future – for MCO and for his personal profession (no, he’s not retiring) – we puzzled who might presumably exchange the irreplaceable. Enthusiastic cheering from the viewers and a big sheaf of flowers have been closing reminders that William Hennessy’s achievements so far are enormously valued.

Picture provided.


Heather Leviston reviewed “Dixit Dominus” offered by Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and Polyphonic Voices on the Melbourne Recital Centre on November 28, 2021.


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