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Faure Requiem

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by John Andrew (subscribe)
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Most of the capacity audience in the Concert Hall would not have heard this version of Stravinsky's "Funeral Song" before, given that, as Celia Fitzwalter's excellent program notes told us, the orchestration was missing until 2015. It did have a modern feel, very like an avant-garde movie score, beginning so softly as cause us to strain to hear it, then progressing to sombre menacing brass. Engaging yet bleak the "Funeral Song" welled to a roar of grief, subsiding to what may have been resolution or perhaps exhaustion.

The Swedish conductor Stefan Parkman held his baton aloft for what seemed an eternity before releasing the audience into well merited tumultuous applause.

Benjamin Britten came next with the "Four Sea Interludes". Beginning with a delicate evocation of dawn, the second movement has church bells signal the awakening village, and the third features xylophone trumpet and flute to conjure a peaceful moonlight scene.
Then comes the storm with manic violins, and thundering drums. Again after the final cataclysmic crash came the appreciative applause

Most of the orchestra left the stage as the 53 members of the Australian voices arrived, to a rapturous welcome, including the occasional whoop and whistle, showing a not unwelcome generational shift in the way younger audiences express appreciation.



Your aged reviewer was looking forward to hearing the Australian Voices' potent combination of youthful energy with musical brilliance. They have a precision and a clarity of tone which allows them both to celebrate the Baroque and to "nail" the rapid-fire humour of a piece like "The Facebook Song".

"Cloudburst" by Eric Whitacre was first written for a school choir and inspired by witnessing a cloud-burst in the Mexican desert. Mix hand-bells, drums and a huge thunder sheet. Add clicking and clapping hands. Intersperse patterned layers of interwoven voices, sung with mesmerising complexity and energy and we were treated to a magical tour de force, which was a fitting conclusion to the first half of the concert. The exceedingly lengthy applause included whistles, and stamping feet and at least three times the conductor left the stage only to be recalled by the ongoing tumult. This was an exhilarating highlight.

After the interval, we watched as the Australian Voices filled the choir stalls, Morgan England Jones in a splendid silver gown joined the organist Phillip Gearing in the organ loft, and the statuesque Teddy Tahu Rhodes joined the orchestra.

Stephan Parkman's arrival was greeted by an audience in high good humour and clearly expecting great things.
Nor were they to be disappointed.

Gabriel Faure's Requiem Op. 48 evokes both the gravitas of loss with the lightness of redemption and hope.

Highlights were the Australian Voices' beautifully modulated and complex "Hosanna in Excelsis". England Jones made the much loved "Pie Jesu" fresh and moving with the thrilling accompaniment of strings, harp and organ. Teddy Tahu Rhodes gave a carefully controlled and convincing rendition of "Libera Me" interspersed by the contrasting evocation "Dies Irae" (Day of Wrath) from the choir, and punctuated by growling brass.



Resolution came as choir and organ celebrated "In Paradisium", on the day before Easter Sunday.

There are some concerts where some of the music is endured in expectation of the rest. Not so this time. Every single piece was impressive on its own, but also a seamless part of the whole.

____________________

Conductor Stefan Parkman
Soprano Morgan England-Jones
Baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes
The Australian Voices
Dir. Gordon Hamilton

Stravinsky Funeral Song, Op.5
Britten Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op.33a
Whitacre Cloudburst
INTERVAL
Fauré Requiem, Op.48
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Why? Simply the best
When: 7 April
Where: QPAC Concert Hall
Cost: $60 - $87
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