Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Sheherazade & Brahms’s Requiem

Simon Over: Principal Guest Conductor
Rebecca Ryan – Soprano
Jarvis Dams – Baritone
City Choir Dunedin
Saturday 30 September, 7.30pm
Dunedin Town Hall

Programme:
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade 
(Violin soloist: Tessa Petersen)
Brahms: A German Requiem 

REVIEW

Brahms’ A German Requiem is an impressive work. Large in scope and demanding large orchestral and vocal forces, it is inspired by Lutheran scripture. While those who equate value with bank balance are vigorously excluded, the rest of us who toil honestly against the odds, are portrayed as earthly particles most likely to reach sweet heaven and have no more chores ever.

The music removes any ambiguity. It is serene, melodious, warm, lush and enveloping. There is no “dies ire”, no fire and brimstone; the work simply fades away at its closing “Blessed are the dead”. Theatrical awe is gained via the realisation of small things such as “For all flesh is like grass” and “The dead will be raised, imperishable”.

The combined forces of the City Choir Dunedin and Dunedin Symphony Orchestra under the inspired direction of Simon Over made wonderful work of this challenging, stamina-taxing requiem. Though both the soprano and tenor are inevitably overtaxed on high exposed lines, and the body of the choir labours over layered lines and staggered entries, the choir as a whole is in fine form.

It gave an energetic, committed and, at times, an inspired performance. The voices of the soloists, soprano Rebecca Ryan and baritone Jarvis Dams, were both rich and warm, well suited to the work.

Solo performances by all of the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra section leaders in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade show the orchestra’s overall strength. Tessa Petersen’s solo performance of Scheherazade’s voice was particularly spell-binding with some wonderful harmonics on high strings and the alluring dance well achieved. Answering passages from the lead cello, Heleen du Plessis, taking the Young Prince’s voice were also well executed.

Both works created a long evening where perhaps the Brahms could have stood better alone.

Reviewed by Marian Poole for the Otago Daily Times, Tuesday, 3 October 2017