Review of German Masterpieces Concert - March 2023

Type of post: Press article
Sub-type: No sub-type
Posted By: Mark Wainwright
Status: Archived
Date Posted: Mon, 27 Mar 2023

The glorious architecture of the chapel of St Cross provided a wonderful backdrop to an enjoyable evening of music provided by Southern Voices under their conductor, Jamal Sutton, offering the choir the opportunity to exploit the acoustic to the full. The choral music of Josef Rheinbergerwas represented by his Mass for Double Choir ‘Cantus Missae’ and by his ‘Abendlied’. This ‘Evening Hymn’ began the concert and displayed the blended tone and full sound of Southern Voices. The Mass setting was split across the two halves of the concert and so, in the first half, we heard the ‘Kyrie’ and the ‘Gloria’, the former with its long, flowing lines and the latter sung with a rhythmic joyfulness. It is not difficult to hear the influence of Bach and Brahms in these movements, while in the second half of the concert, Jamal Sutton highlighted the spatial effect of the double choir by spreading the singers on either side of the nave. This proved to be most effective and really allowed one to hear the antiphonal writing, with some fine singing and good dynamic control.

The double choir effect was also heard in the first of the Brahms’ motets ‘Ich aber bin elend’, while the chorale-style of ‘Ach, arme Welt’ was beautifully controlled. Fine singing was also in evidence in the ‘Geistliches Lied’ and here Brahms’ expansive ‘Amen’ was just glorious. The four Bruckner motets gave the choir the opportunity to show their dynamic range – a notable feature of these short works - and to exploit the acoustic, allowing the sound to reverberate around the stonework. ‘Locus iste’ and ‘Os justi’ were perfectly paced and sung but I would have preferred a slightly more spacious tempo for ‘Christus factus est’. There was, however, no denying the gorgeous effect of the final bars of ‘Ave Maria’, bringing the evening to a satisfying close.

Sadly, the programme notes failed to mention the two organ works (Rheinberger and Mendelssohn) played with such virtuosity by George Castle. He really showed off the colours of the St Cross organ and built the Rheinberger ‘Passacaglia’ to a superb and imposing climax. In amongst all the a cappella singing, the tonal variety achieved by George in these two nineteenth-century works made an excellent contrast.

Duncan Eves