Archive for Arvo Pärt

The Goethe-Institut Choir Christmas Concert

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on December 18, 2018 by telescoper

Last night I found myself yet again at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, this time for a Christmas Concert by the Goethe-Institut Choir and the Goethe Ensemble, directed by John Dexter, together with a fine set of principals Katy Kelly (soprano), Christina Whyte (alto), Dustin Drosdziok (tenor) and Eoghan Desmond (bass).

The main items on the menu were three Parts of the Christmas Oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach. Before the interval wine break we heard Parts I and IV, the former opening with the famous Jauchzet, frohlocket!, followed in the second half by Part III. The whole Oratorio is in six parts, which I think would make it too long for an evening concert, which explains why only three pieces were performed. I’m not sure why the particular ordering was chosen for the selected parts but it worked rather well. The various Parts are basically separate cantatas anyway, so performing them individually like this is perfectly sensible.

Before Part III of the Oratorio, which came in Part II of the Concert, after Part IV, which came in Part I,  the Choir performed some shorter pieces without the orchestra: a mediaeval carol called Angelus ad Virginem, a piece from the magnificent All-Night Vigil by Sergei Rachmaninov, БОГОРОДИЦЕ ДЈЕВО, and a much jauntier version of the same text (closely related to Ave Maria) by Arvo Pärt.  Then there was an audience singalong to Stille Nacht, with verses in English, Irish and German.

In case you’re interested, the opening verse of Silent Night in Irish reads

Oíche chiúin, oíche Mhic Dé,
Cách ‘na suan, dís araon,
Dís is dílse ag faire le spéis,
Naí beag gnaoi-gheal ceanán tais caomh
Críost ina chodladh go séimh,
Críost ina chodladh go séimh.

The choir was really excellent in these pieces, as it was throughout the concert.

The second piece in the concert  (Part IV) was marred by poor pitching of the two French horns, but there was compensation in the form of lovely playing by the interweaving violins behind the tenor aria, and an echo effect achieved by placing an oboe and vocalist (soprano Eilis Dexter) in the choir balcony (the main choir being on stage with the Orchestra).

The concert got off to an inauspicious (but rather amusing) start when the power supply failed for the chamber organ played by Niall Kinsella just as the concert was about to begin. I didn’t realise those instruments needed to be plugged in. Obviously batteries are not included. A stage hand had to dash on and fiddle about to find another socket behind the drapes surrounding the stage and then bring on an extension cable. Fortunately the delay wasn’t long.

Overall this was a very enjoyable concert, with Choir and Orchestra on good form. The principal vocalists were good too. I particularly liked Katy Kelly. It didn’t surprise me when I read in the programme that she has recently performed two great roles in Mozart operas: Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), La Contessa (Le Nozze di Figaro) and performed the Die Königin der Nacht coloratura arias from the Magic Flute on television. I think she has a great voice for Mozart, agile and graceful.

I should also mention that the Concert was pretty much sold out, which was good to see. No doubt the absence of a harpsichord contributed to its success.

Anyway, that concludes my concert-going for 2018. Hopefully there will be a few more to report on in 2019!


Spiegel im Spiegel

Posted in Biographical, Music with tags , , , on February 11, 2013 by telescoper

I’ve been so busy this last week that I really needed to unwind a bit on Sunday morning, for which purpose I picked this beautifully spare and sublimely contemplative piece by the great Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. This music always makes me think of the first line of the Desiderata

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence

..except of course that it’s not silent.

Ars Nova Copenhagen

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2012 by telescoper

Yesterday being the day of my last revision lecture I decided to mark the end of the teaching year last night by going to a concert which was part of a series belonging to the 2012 Vale of Glamorgan Music Festival and was held in All Saints’ Church, Penarth. I would like to have been to more of these performances, but unfortunately it’s the busiest period of the academic year and I just couldn’t spare the time.

I made a special effort to make sure I could get to last night’s concert by the choir  Ars Nova Copenhagen partly because of their illustrious reputation as choral singers but also because the programme featured music by Danish composer Per Nørgård, whose music I have only just discovered. Ars Nova Copenhagen consists of twelve singers of extraordinary individual ability and wonderful collective cohesion under the direction of Søren Kinch Hansen. Last night’s performance was truly marvellous.

To the left you can see a picture of the venue, just before the concert started; we had seats in the gallery giving an excellent view of the whole performance. The choir made full use of this space, sometimes dividing into groups and standing in different parts of the church. I’m not all that familiar with the terminology of church architecture, but that includes just in front of the sanctuary (where the altar is), in the choir, and in the aisles either side of the central one. Incidentally, I have been told on more than one occasion that the central passageway through the nave is not, as is often stated the aisle; the aisles are the smaller parallel passageways to either of the nave. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong!

Anyway, the programme consisted of a mixture of sacred and secular music (some of the latter actually rather profane), starting with a longish  piece by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen which had the choir not only singing but also tweeting like birds and doing animal impressions. I was initially unsettled by this, but pretty soon decided that I liked it.

There then followed three pieces by the great Estonian composer Arvo Pärt – all of which were lovely, but I particularly enjoyed the piece called Morning Star – and then three beautiful pieces by Per Nørgård bringing the first half of the concert to a close.

Somewhat surprisingly for a concert in a church, there followed an interval at which we had a glass of wine. Then there was a second half which had a rather different, rather eclectic flavour. It started with two new works commissioned especially for this Festival, by Peter Bannister and Gavin Bryars, the latter being a moving setting of Psalm 141. A subset of the male voices of the choir then performed a piece by minimalist composer Steve Reich. Finally we heard a fascinating work by Anne Boyd called As I crossed the bridge of dreams which was bore the hallmarks of an oriental influence.

All in all, it was a fascinating and adventurous evening of music, by a wonderful and versatile group of vocal artists, helped by the intimate yet rich acoustic of All Saints’ Church.

You can’t beat live music. What with the various concert venues and the Opera here in Cardiff there are so many opportunities to hear the real thing that my CD collection is steadily gathering dust.