Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Refrain: Fauré’s Requiem and Different Works

Those that attended the live performance at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday twenty sixth March given by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Refrain, performed by Mr. Warren Trevelyan-Jones, had been handled to a feast of choral magnificence.

The primary piece, Missa Ænigmata by the Australian composer Brooke Shelley, was superbly suited to the acoustics and atmosphere of the Cathedral. Having learn a biography of Ms. Shelley, which included the knowledge that she has shaped a band known as Resonaxis that mixes “steel and Renaissance music with organ improvisation by David Drury”, I used to be considerably intrigued by what her Mass could be like, discovering it was an attractive work with 4 actions. Her piece was commissioned for a fortieth Birthday. It was to be based mostly on Elgar’s Nimrod from his Enigma Variations and to “appear to be”: “a Palladian villa … completely lush with elegant English understatement, however with wealthy magnificence, not wanting.”

The Kyrie started with a delicate begin by the altos, who produced a heat, rounded tone. The entry for the sopranos was very excessive and fairly a shock. Once more, the altos had been stronger than the sopranos within the second motion, the Gloria. There was pleasing motion throughout the elements and dissonant 2nds had been held very gently and securely in order that there was no feeling of a conflict. The dissonances added depth however had been by no means harsh. The brilliant begin of the Gloria was repeated within the “Quonium” and the motion ended with a beautiful diminuendo. Within the Sanctus a really dense high quality was produced with many climbing pitch entries between elements. It appeared counterintuitive to complete the “Hosanna in excelsis” on pp reasonably than loud exultation, however it was very efficient. The fourth motion, Agnus Dei, additionally had a delicate opening, once more with wealthy tone gently mixing held dissonances. The well-known Nimrod variation opening melody started the motion and rapidly pale after some improvisation on it. The Refrain did a tremendous job to expertly hold their pitch spot on on this a cappella piece with its troublesome, however acceptable, harmonies. The composer was on the live performance and acquired loud applause for her pretty composition.

The subsequent scrumptious providing was an association of Elgar’s Lux AeternaNimrod, from his Enigma Variations, organized by John Cameron for choir. The choir entry was somewhat ragged and the sopranos’ tone high quality was once more somewhat skinny. They wanted a extra mature “womanly” sound to steadiness the tone high quality of the opposite three elements. By the top of the piece, nevertheless, they’d made up for his or her less-than-wonderful begin by completely putting their last very excessive notes very softly.

For me, the spotlight of the night was John Tavener’s unaccompanied Music for Athene, made well-known by being sung at Princess Diana’s funeral, however written for a pal named Athene who was killed in a automotive accident. It was carried out beautifully by each voice group within the choir. The gently held lengthy pedal-note sung by the basses was seamless for the complete piece and had simply the correct quantity to assist the opposite elements all through. When the Choir sang “Bear in mind me, O Lord, while you come into your kingdom” I felt goosebumps. After the phrases “weeping on the grave” all of the elements broke into “Allelujah” and it was as if the solar had come out. The ultimate “Allelujah” sung by the tenors was restrained and mild with an attractive tone. This piece has been performed and carried out many occasions, however the efficiency by the MSO Refrain was probably the most stunning that I’ve ever heard. It was a “tour de power”.

The ultimate work was Fauré’s a lot cherished Requiem with soloists Elspeth Bawden, soprano, and Stephen Marsh, baritone. The model carried out was the 1889 version and it’s not a whole liturgical Requiem. Fauré selected the texts to stress the concept of relaxation and peace, reasonably than the concern and trembling of the “Day of Judgement”.

After the peace of the primary three unaccompanied items, it was considerably jarring to have an instrumental accompaniment for the Requiem – a much-unexpected state of affairs. The instrumentation was 4 Violas, 4 Cellos, 2 Double Basses, 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Timpani, Harp and Organ. The selection of strings with out violins gave a sense of depth and profundity, and the usage of timpani recommended underlying pressure. The Choir sang the complete work impeccably with their traditional great management of dynamics and mixing of elements. There have been a couple of barely ragged entries however by and enormous the choir’s efficiency was wonderful. A really well-balanced mix was particularly noticeable between the altos and tenors within the Offertory. This was a great instance of the “depth” of the Requiem the place solely the altos, tenors and basses sing for the primary 30 bars, adopted by the Baritone soloist. Stephen Marsh’s voice has a nice ring and carried effectively within the cathedral, a couple of tiny errors seeming to be associated to his not having the ability to hear the accompaniment very effectively. (On the finish of the Offertory the complete choir was out by 1 / 4 to a semitone from the organ’s pitch – as a consequence of not having the ability to hear the organ very effectively I assume. This appears to contradict my earlier assertion in regards to the choir’s efficiency, however most individuals wouldn’t have observed.)

It was pretty to listen to the organ alternating with the harp within the Sanctus, and the one violin used within the piece was a solo violin performed by Peter Edwards with its personal line shimmering above the voices on this motion. Earlier than the standard thumping “Hosanna”, sung in unison by the lads in the midst of the Sanctus, the sopranos sang their last “Hosanna” with a change of concord that recommended a sense of decision. The conductor, Warren Trevelyan-Jones, introduced the accompaniment in earlier than the lads’s “Hosanna” firmly, however gently, in contrast to the standard full-force crashing staccato chords. The accompaniment grew to become gentler because the Sanctus progressed and ended very softly on the ultimate sung “Sanctus”.

Elspeth Bawden carried out the Pie Jesu with wonderful pitch and diction and a beautiful clear tone that carried superbly within the Cathedral. It’s a disgrace that the soprano doesn’t have extra to sing on this work.

The Agnus Dei was pulled again in tempo to good impact. Once more, the choir sang superbly and there have been beautiful harp phrases. On the repeat of the primary phrase of the work – “Requiem aeternam” with its introductory single bar of 4/4 unison D’s, there was a hesitancy to begin collectively, as on the opening of the work. The conductor typically stretches out this bar, however the choir must see very clearly when to start singing. Many an beginner choir stumbles at these two factors.

Stephen Marsh once more carried out the Libera me securely earlier than the choir entered “trembling” very softly. When the horns and timpani entered, the conductor saved the tone full reasonably than loud and strident as it’s often carried out, though I did discover the timpani somewhat overpowering. On the choral repeat of the baritone’s opening phrase the unison of all voices was wonderful and the accompaniment extra delicate. Mr Marsh ended the motion softly and the choir entry supported him and allowed him to be heard.

The accompaniment of the ultimate motion, In Paradisum, was fascinating and totally different from the usually-heard accompaniment, with two-bar phrases swapped forwards and backwards between totally different devices. I heard this, reasonably than the great thing about the sopranos singing their pretty line. The boys joined the sopranos at bar 21 “Jerusalem” supportively. I discovered the Double Bass staccato notes from bar 31, the place the sopranos sing “Refrain angelorum”, to be somewhat heavy given the which means of the textual content. The tip of the work was ppp and the entire work ended like a unified, hushed prayer.

Mr Trevelyan-Jones has skilled the MSO Refrain to knowledgeable customary that’s to be vastly admired. His calm conducting introduced out the perfect in each singers and instrumentalists. It was so pleasing to see the complete Cathedral full. Given the final two years of COVID disruptions and the very unhappy developments on the planet at present, individuals voted with their ft and wallets to point out that we wished and wanted this live performance with its message of calm, and peace, and hope. Thanks to the MSO for using Mr Trevelyan-Jones to steer the perfect choir in Melbourne, if not additional afield. Lengthy might they sing!

Picture credit score: Liam Hennebry


Jennifer Turner reviewed “Fauré’s Requiem and Different Works”, introduced by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Refrain at St Patrick’s Cathedral on March 26, 2022.


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