Beginning in style with Mozart’s Symphony No 39 in E flat, the orchestra opened this concert which, although featuring the two groups was really the choir’s night! It was good to see the combined forces in action for the two pieces which followed – Morten Lauridsen’s five movement Lux Aeterna and the second Mozart composition of the evening, his well-loved Requiem.
A large and appreciative audience soaked up the music in the wonderful Victorian Anglo-Catholic splendour of Christchurch. At this time when it is still an act of faith to plan a performance on this scale and when there has been so much disruption and uncertainty for musicians it was a treat to experience this live in-person event involving so many talented and commited musicians.
The two choral works, both settings of liturgical memorial words carried additional poignancy in this remembrance season as the evening was also dedicated to three supporters of the choir who have died in recent months. One of these is Dr Brian Hick, founder of this website.
I was particularly looking forward to hearing the Lauridsen as it is a late 20th century work, a complete contrast in musical language to the works by Mozart but sharing the affinity of the text with that of the Requiem. I was a little disappointed, not for lack of commitment or effort on anyone’s part, but because of the imbalance in volume between choir and orchestra. At times this caused discrepancies in tuning and some uncertain entries. This is not easy music and even in the more subdued passages careful and confident placing of pitch is essential. There were some beautiful moments, most noticeably when the orchestral forces were greatly reduced, proving that the choir was capable but simply disadvantaged on this occasion.
There were similar issues with balance in the Requiem but the choir’s familiarity with this work meant that, despite this, it was carried off with confidence. The four excellent soloists each gave fine controlled performances producing some lovely contrasting sections throughout. I was surprised however that I found the line-up of folder, book and two different coloured I-pads quite distracting! There were some spine-tingling moments, noticeably the beginnings of the Lacrymosa and Sanctus. The overall performance from the combined forces here proved to be a satisfying conclusion to an enjoyable evening under the familiar baton of Marcio da Silva.
It is good to see the Philharmonic Choir back, performing a mixture of the well-known and the less performed, together with another great outing for the Philharmonic Orchestra. Hopefully something creative can be done to address the balance issue in the future so that the two groups will continue to flourish and collaborate.