Spring Concert - Sunday, 29th April 2018
Missa Brevis, Zoltán Kodály
Otčenáš, Leos Janáček
Chichester Psalms, Leonard Bernstein
Morgengesang & Nacthlied, Max Reger
Review by D.H. Macdonald, 1st May 2018
On Sunday evening the Rosenethe Singers, under their gifted conductor Kevin Duggan, pushed their highly commendable repertoire expansion into Easterly directions. The music performed was in a certain idiom and style and the Choir worked very hard to embrace these elements. In the concert, the Rosenethe embraced exotic and modal harmony, folkloristic melodic patterns, unusual interval combinations and differing language complexities. This would be a challenge for any choir and recognition for having the vocal stamina and concentration is due to all concerned.
The performance of Janáček's Otčenáš was the highlight of the evening and must have been at least a regional premiere. I can sympathise with the task of learning to sing in Czech but the results on Sunday were well worth the effort. We were treated to a winning combination of the choir's attention to detail, the sensitivity of the organ playing (Matthew Beetschen), the beautiful harp ostinati (Sharon Griffiths) and an engaging soprano soloist (Ellie Rashid). I, like many in the audience, was entranced.
Kodály's Missa Brevis is as complex as it is short. He shares with Beethoven an instrumental methodology when composing for the voice. With some phrases covering 2 octaves, the soprano section survived such vocal gymnastics with honour. While there were some uneven moments, the choir in the final section was very effective in projecting well into the Cathedral space and the well-focused sound rang like a peel of Russian Bells. Notably brief solos were taken from the ranks of the choir and a lovely blended trio of "Rheinmädchen-like" sopranos' stratospheric phrases rang out into the Cathedral.
The Choir were on familiar ground with the Reger pieces and there was some really delicate light and shade in the phrasing especially in Nachtlied. Mr Duggan fields a lovely round quiet sound from his choir when required.
The Bernstein. Anyone who tells you that they do not feel pre-performance anxiety before Chichester Psalms (professional or amateur) - is lying! In general, audience members get bewitched by the Bernstein sound world and have not a clue about the mammoth concentration required to sustain a performance of this work. This was an adrenaline-pumped performance and, notably in movement II, the ladies of the Rosenethe produced some lovely pp singing under the treble (Hamish Bell) - well done! If there was a bumpy road at parts there was also much to commend in the Choir's dynamics and concentrated energy. The high testosterone injection into the proceedings of the charismatic percussionist (Chris Brannick) significantly moved the goalposts.
This was the kind of programming you would encounter at a Festival or a Competition and was challenging in many ways and rewarding in others. In this concert there was a rare gift - a chance to discover "new" music - new sounds and unusual combinations. Priceless.