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Unforgettable musical power - Canberra Times review
The Australian Chamber Orchestra...
Saturday night's concert was deeply satisfying musically, intellectually and spiritually. A number of conventions were challenged in the presentation of Shostakovich's Polka and Elegy; Arvo Part's Summa and Schoenberg's Litany from String QuartetNo.2, incorporated as part of Bach's Missa Brevis in G Minor BWV 235.
Another departure from Bach's customary setting was the decision to allocate one part to one voice in the vocal lines. These innovations stimulated an original way of listening to these musical offerings. The reverence with which both singers and instrumentalists approached the repertoire elevated the performance to a unique dimension of musical communication. In a recent interview with Rachel Kohn, Richard Tognetti confided that whenever he heard discussions searching for religious answers he would like to press a button and play the music of Bach as the best guidance for living.
In the opening Polka composed in 1931 by Shostakovich, Tognetti recreated a world in social and political upheaval, the distorted dance careering in and out of the traditional structure. The following Elegy underpinned by the exquisite trio of the second violin, viola and cello sounded as a cry of anguish. In a perfect answer to the predicament of the tortured soul, Bach's Eyrie from the Missa Brevis swept in with a chorus of comforting grace and beauty. The skill with which each singer made their entries in response to the other parts and the apparent ease with which they managed the challenge of breathing in such an exposed setting was breathtaking These four superb voices worked together spectacularly in this and the following Bach Motet: Lobet den Herren BWV230; and the Cantata, Wo gehest du hin? BWV 166.
Matthew Brooke's bass arias were sung with conviction and endearing warmth. Fiona Campbell's vocal agility and command of the melismatic passages in the alto part were united with her radiant stage presence to draw the audience into the inner layers of the vocal writing. Campbell's skill was matched by tenor Andrew Staples, weaving the subtle web of Bach's contrapuntal writing that seems to me to re-establish divine order when it is sung in such a manner.
Sara Macliver's celestially pure soprano voice explored tragic depths in the Schoenberg Litany from String Quartet No 2, which Tognetti placed before the tenor aria in the Mass. This placement was enlightened, inviting new assessment of Schoenberg's writing through comparison with the equanimity of Bach's compositional style. In an extraordinarily powerful gesture, the harrowing appeal voiced in Macliver's performance was answered by the tenor aria, Qui tollis peccata mundi, and the emotional exploration into the dark caverns of despair brought to a resolution with the final chorus.
Adding Diana Burrell's wonderful piece of writing for strings, Das Meer, das gross und weit ist, provided "vocal lines" for the instrumentalists developing musical textures to recreate a soundscape of the natural elements harmonising in worship. In the juxtaposition of 17th and 20th century settings, Richard Tognetti provided us with new and unforgettable experiences of contemplating the relationship between musical and spiritual order.
Jennifer Gall | Canberra Times | 14 Apr 2010
3 years ago
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