Concert: Mozart Requiem in D minor K626 (28 March 2015)

Concert poster; details in text

An Evening of Mozart

A feast for the emotions from the heart rending sighs of the Lacrymosa to the glorious closure of the Agnus Dei.

With DECO Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra.

Pieces

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Reviews

What a feast of Mozart!

Despite the choir’s size – 114 voices — conductor Ben Lamb achieved an admirable lightness in the intimate Ave Verum Corpus, producing a warm glowing sound from the well-balanced choir, and this balance and warmth continued throughout the Requiem. DECO’s winds now came into their own.  Clarinettists will know the joy of playing the opening phrases, where Mozart displayed the potential of this new instrument in a series of spine-tingling suspensions, and the players on this occasion did it full justice. The brass in Tuba Mirum was a little less secure, and there were some slightly ragged orchestral entries, but the balance between orchestra and choir was the best I have heard for some time.

The soloists were also well integrated with the choir. Alison Daniels’ confident and rounded soprano tones filled the cathedral effortlessly  without any sense of forcing the sound, but tenor Robert Jenkins’ performance, whilst technically excellent,  was somewhat too strident to my ear for this particular role, which needs an almost Chamber Music balance between the soloists. However his stage presentation could not be faulted, but it would have been lovely to have seen Alison’s face and delightful smile more often! The home team of Fran Ambrose and Ailsa Cochrane gave perhaps their best performances yet with this choir, and both looked so involved that they could hardly resist singing along with the choir.

The stars of the show, however, were undoubtedly the enthusiastic and well-rehearsed Chorus. There was a sense of deep empathy with this music, Ben and the singers working as one, and this showed in a renewed confidence in the tenors, (especially in the Confutatis), and a warm, well balanced sound throughout. Strong bass entries in Quam olim Abrahae, lovely intonation and control in the sopranos (who never sounded strained), a balance with the orchestra which meant we never struggled to hear any part, crisp rhythms in the fugal passages and the perfect speeds set by the conductor all combined into a near-perfect whole which reflected in the sheer enjoyment emanating from the singers. Perhaps the emphasis on the pulsating beat of the Agnus Dei spoilt the momentum of the vocal line somewhat, but that really is nit-picking.

The throbbing heartbeat of the opening movement permeated the texture, immediately making one aware of mortality and immortality, and led with utter inevitability to that amazing final bare-fifth chord which seems to open our hearts to the future. The ensuing pin-drop silence perfectly capped this moment, drawing the hundreds of people present together as one. Those glorious colours recently revealed in the East End’s restored windows were indeed beautifully matched by the sublime aural colours in the West End for this most memorable of evenings.

Concert in Lichfield Cathedral, 28th March 2015

Megan Barr, April 2015