Ensembles Around Europe

Our first chapel concert of the year was opened with the brilliant Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Martin Cropper. They performed the lively St Paul’s Suite by Holst. Holst had written the suite for St Paul’s Girls’ School in London in 1913, where he was Director of Music. The opening movement of the Jig was a lively, energetic start to the concert. This was followed by the second movement, where the second violins play the Ostinato accompaniment that give it its title. The third movement, the Intermezzo, featured a violin solo, played beautifully by Grace. The suite concluded with, arguably, the most recognisable movement; an arrangement of two folk melodies, The Dargason and Greensleeves.

The fabulous Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Peter Davis, performed two pieces: the Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor by Saint-Saens and Symphony No.4 in D minor  by Schumann. The Piano Concerto was played skilfully by Form 7 Vienna. The second movement, entitled Scherzo, was playful and lively. The piano and orchestra occasionally swapped roles during this movement; the piano’s light-hearted melodies being passed around the orchestra, whilst the piano took over the witty accompaniment. The third movement, entitled Presto, opened dramatically with triplets from the piano, which were then passed onto the orchestra. This ‘fiery tarantella’ developed into a lively dialogue between piano and strings, with the music gaining momentum as it rushed to the climax.

Leading us into the interval, the Symphony Orchestra then performed the first movement of Schumann’s Symphony No.4 in D minor. Schumann originally put the composition to one side after it was, disappointingly, not as popular as his first symphony. Having made adjustments ten years later, he published his work. The first movement begins with a slow introduction, before speeding on ahead into the lebhaft section, with melodies being imitated across the string and woodwind sections of the orchestra. The musical features in this work make it a good example of early romantic music.

The second half of the concert brought us a performance of Rutter’s Requiem from the Chamber Choir, conducted by Peter Davis, and accompanied by a small ensemble of instrumental teachers. They had performed this glorious Requiem at St Stephen Walbrook in London just a week earlier, as part of the Brandenburg Choral Festival. John Rutter writes of his piece: “…it is not strictly a setting of the Requiem Mass as laid down in Catholic liturgy, but instead is made up of a personal selection of texts, some taken from the Requiem Mass and some from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The seven sections of the work form an arch-like meditation on the themes of life and death: the first and last movements (Requiem aeternam and Lux aeterna) are prayers on behalf of all humanity, movements 2 and 3 (Out of the deep and The Lord is my shepherd) are psalms, 3 and 5 (Pie Jesu and Agnus Dei) are personal prayers to Christ, and the central Sanctus is an affirmation of divine glory.” The Requiem Aeternam opens with a slightly menacing choral passage, before evolving into the beautiful main theme, with a prominent harp accompaniment. Out of the deep begins with a cello solo and features the altos and basses to begin with, before passing the melody onto the sopranos and tenors. Beth followed this with the Pie Jesu, sung beautifully, with the final note sounding effortless. The joyful sound of the Sanctus gives the impression of the gates of Heaven opening triumphantly, which is then heavily contrasted by the Agnus Dei. The penultimate movement, and possibly one of Rutter’s most famous psalm settings, was The Lord is my shepherd. Beth then treats us to another fine solo in the Lux aeterna, before being joined by the rest of the choir. This led us to a repetition of the Requiem aeternam; Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine on them.

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