Oceans of ink have been spilled – and will so continue – about which hand completed which section of Mozart’s Requiem. If these endless speculations – and musings about which illness he might have been suffering from as he wrote this, that or the other episode – bring satisfaction to those who utter them, then good luck to this endless pageant of nitpickers.
For those whose prime satisfaction comes from listening to the work, here is yet another in a very long list of recordings of the Requiem.
Piety informs just about every moment of this performance which has about it an inner quietness that is often very moving. Gratifyingly, there’s not a hint here of that over-the-top approach favoured by some.
Cantillation is at its supple best in the Kyrie which is presented with gratifying clarity at speed. And there is splendid attack and follow-through., too, in the Dies Irae. I particularly liked the quietly uttered, deeply felt measures of the Recordare sung, beautifully, by the vocal quartet of Sara Macliver (soprano), Sally-Anne Russell (mezzo soprano), Paul McMahon (tenor) and Teddy Tahu Rhodes (bass baritone). And buoyant momentum makes for gratifying listening in Domine Jesu Christe.
It is only in the Introitus that one senses a need for a more calmly fluent unfolding of some of the most profoundly poignant music in the repertoire.
Soprano Sara Macliver is at her virtuosic best in the much-loved Exultate, Jubilate.
Listening to that most ecstatic of motets – Exultate Jubilate – invariably calls to mind Dvorak’s comment that Mozart is sunshine. Even the words of the motet suggest radiance, such as fulget amica dies which means “the friendly, happy day shines forth”. And soprano Katja Webb very effectively captured the happy essence of the writing in an all-Mozart concert to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth. Vocal tone, other than some notes in the lower register where some power was lost, carried effectively to the furthest corner of Winthrop Hall. Occasionally, though, some notes in rapid vocal passagework were not as clearly defined as one might have hoped.
Mozart’s great motet was heard in the context of a larger work – the Coronation Mass. Here, conductor John Beaverstock demonstrated once again that in his choice of tempi, he has the happy knack of setting a pace that is both appropriate and manageable. This was especially so in the Gloria during which Beaverstock coaxed from his choral forces responses of great intensity. And the Credo, too, came across, as it should, as a mighty affirmation, an impression reinforced by an emphatic, unflagging beat. Laurels to the trombones here. The opening measures of the Sanctus were like a blaze of light, the University of W.A.Choral Society sounding at its best here. And alto Sarah Dougiamas was in fine form in the Agnus Dei.
The choir was altogether convincing in Ave Verum in which Beaverstock succeeded in maintaining a sense of onward momentum at slow speed, a feat of commendable musicianship. But the mood so carefully generated was largely ruined by latecomers thoughtlessly – and with noisy footsteps – wandering around the hall which begs the question: why are latecomers admitted mid-work?
After the interval, choral intonation proved problematical in Dixit Dominus and the Magnificat from Vesperae Solennes. One longed here for greater clarity of inner vocal lines.
2006 is the 75th anniversary year of the UWA Choral Society, a notable milestone for an ensemble that has brought a wealth of new music as well as established classics to the city, much of it during the stewardship of the late Sir Frank Callaway. Among first performances given in the city under Callaway’s direction were those of Verdi’s Requiem, Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony and Beethoven’s Choral Symphony. Another conductor under whose direction the Society flourished was John Winstanley. The Society’s next concert takes place in October and will focus on music by Western Australian composers including emeritus professor David Tunley and Dom Moreno of New Norcia. Full details are available on the choir’s website www.uwacs.com.au