Tuesday 2 June 2009

And now, in English (with thanks to Cate Avery for the translation)

From the Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger

Moments of great opera

By Ingeborg Schwenke-Runkel, 02.06.09, 09:41 h

Slightly shortened, but no less thrilling: Handel's "Messiah" in English with English guests. This was a joint production of the Henley Choral Society and the Figuralchor of the Leichlingen Kantorei.

With Kantorei choir from Henley

More than 100 voices: singers from Leichlingen and Henley.

LEICHLINGEN - Hallelujah: After the last sound of "Messiah" died away, the audience exploded, jumping to their feet to celebrate the performance. A little opera, a touch of tragedy, a dash of chamber music and a generous dose of moving music: that, in brief, describes the "Messiah" which was given on Whit Sunday in Leichlingen's Am Hammer auditorium, and which lifted the spirits and gladdened the hearts of those who heard it - not with the thousand tongues of the Pentecost, but by over a hundred singers. George Frederick Handel's most popular oratorio was performed as a joint production by the Henley Choral Society and the Figuralchor of the Leichlingen Kantorei.

This musical telling of Jesus’s life was sung in its original English, as is now so often the custom when good musicians are at work. Of course, this was also a nod to those who had come from the twin town in England, as indeed was the gesture to stand for the Hallelujah Chorus, which is a tradition in that country. Bettina Strübel has long been known to many – not merely concert-goers in Leichlingen – as a musician of this calibre, and understands how to marry the demands of a composition with those of the performers. For "Messiah" this meant elastic choral sections and an orchestral tone with the clarity required of chamber music. And the balance between expression and construction was maintained, so that fugal sections (to take an example) were not made to serve the composition as an end in itself but illustrated the text.

One example was the crescendo in the thrice-repeated cry, "Who is this King of Glory?" The audience had no hint of the efforts made during rehearsal but saw only the exuberance of the singers. This was music-making in the best possible sense.

With commitment

The few moments that were not quite so harmonious might in fact be reminiscent of Beckmesser, because word-painting with sound always took centre stage. The Dusseldorf Philharmonie, an ensemble made up of freelance musicians, performed not just with workmanlike accuracy but reflected Handel's warmth and sympathy at the unfolding story through pithy rhythms and a soft melodious tone. The soloists provided moments of great opera – without any props, but just by the colour of their rendition.

This will certainly not be the last time we hear from the young counter-tenor Daniel Lager - a voice with a future. Christina Müskens’s soprano voice combined sweetness and clarity. Wolfgang Thesing (tenor) painted both beautiful melodies and lively coloraturas; and Will Dawes demonstrated his versatility, since he not only sang the bass solo part but is also the Director of the Henley Choral Society.

What the press said - from the Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger

Momente von großer Oper

Von Ingeborg Schwenke-Runkel, 02.06.09, 09:41h

Leicht gekürzt, doch nicht minder mitreißend: Händels „Messiah“ in Englisch mit englischen Gästen. Aufgeführt wurde er als Gemeinschaftsproduktion der Henley Choral Society und des Figuralchores der Leichlinger Kantorei.

Leichlingen - Halleluja: Nach dem letzten Ton des „Messiah“ entlud sich die Spannung. Die Menschen sprangen auf und bejubelten die Aufführung. Ein Stückchen Oper, ein Hauch von Tragödie, eine Prise Kammermusik und ganz viel herzbewegende Musik: So lässt sich in aller Kürze der „Messiah“ beschreiben, der Pfingstsonntag die Gemüter in der Leichlinger Aula Am Hammer erhellte, erfreute und erhitzte - nicht mit tausend Zungen gesprochen, wohl aber mit mehr als hundert Stimmen gesungen. Georg Friedrich Händels populärstes Oratorium erklang als Gemeinschaftsproduktion der Henley Choral Society und des Figuralchores der Leichlinger Kantorei.

Die musikdramatische Jesus-Biografie erklang im Original, in Englisch, wie es inzwischen schöner Brauch geworden ist, wenn verantwortungsvolle Musiker am Werk sind. Natürlich war dies auch eine Verbeugung vor den englischen Gästen aus der Partnerstadt, ebenso wie die Geste, sich zum Halleluja zu erheben, so, wie es auf der Insel Tradition ist. Bettina Strübel, das wissen nicht nur Leichlinger Konzertfreunde seit vielen Jahren, ist eine solch verantwortungsvolle Musikerin, die es versteht, die Anforderungen einer Komposition mit den Möglichkeiten der Ausführenden zu verbinden. Das bedeutete für den „Messiah“: elastische, federnde Chorpassagen und ein kammermusikalisch-klares, durchsichtiges Instrumentationsbild. Der Ausdruck ging nicht auf Kosten der Konstruktion verloren. Das heißt: Fugenpassagen, etwa, gerieten nicht zum kompositorischen Selbstzweck, sondern verdeutlichten den Text, indem sie ihn gliederten.

Beispielhaft gelang die Steigerung im dreimaligen Ausruf „Who is this King of Glory“. So erfuhren die Zuhörer nichts von den Mühen des Übens und Einstudierens, doch alles von der beglückenden Erfahrung des Singens. Das war „Musik machen“ im besten Sinn.

Mit Hingabe

Die wenigen, nicht ganz so stimmigen Einsätze mögen allenfalls Beckmesser anmerken, denn Klang als Aussage spielte stets die erste Geige. Auch die Philharmonie Düsseldorf, ein Ensemble, das sich aus freischaffenden Musikerinnen und Musikern zusammensetzt, absolvierte ihren Part nicht als Pflichtübung, sondern spiegelte Händels Wärme und Anteilnahme am Geschehen in pointierten Rhythmen und weichem Melodiefluss. Die Solisten sorgten für Momente von großer Oper - ganz ohne Requisiten, allein durch die Farbe der Tongebung.

Vom jungen Countertenor Daniel Lager wird sicherlich noch viel zu hören sein - eine Stimme mit Zukunft. Christina Müskens vereinigt in ihrem Sopran Lieblichkeit und Klarheit. Wolfgang Thesing (Tenor) zieht ebenso schöne Melodiebögen wie er Koloraturen aufspringen lässt, und Will Dawes überzeugt als Solo-Bassist - wenn er nicht die Henley Choral Society leitet.

Monday 1 June 2009

Monday Night....

I'm home!

The coach pulled into Henley Station at about 1845, and we were at Gillots at 1900, bang on schedule.

Will bounced us through a lively rehearsal of Mendelssohn and Parry, and it felt rather strange not having Ian and our coach waiting to whisk us off when we had finished.

What fun the whole jaunt was. More reflections and photos to follow no doubt, but in the meantime thanks to all for making such a memorable weekend.

Your blogger.....

Back to Blighty

Good afternoon.

Apologies for radio silence, but connecting while travelling was proving difficult.

We are back in blighty. An emotional farewell with a flag-waving send off in Leichlingen, memories of a triumphant Hallelujah chorus and extremely convivial party still ringing our ears.

Lots of excited commitments of a rematch in Henley in 2011, and we pulled way from Leichlingen at 0915 - just 15 mins behind schedule. Not bad. The only slight downer was our bus which fell pray to trophy hunters, removing the registration plate from the front of the bus. Fingers crossed that we don't fall prey to the Belgian police who Ian fears could make our life awkward.

A swift comfortable run got us to a service station just beyond Brussels where the chairman and HKPM Dawes ate and burger lunch containing a combined 1800 calories.....! Then briefly through France ( having, I'm pleased to report, escaped the Belgian police)

On the ferry at 1500, and off at Dover at 1600 UK time. Almost home. M25 allowing Henley station at about 1830.


The Top Brass.....

....relaxing after proceedings in a small, self congratulatory moment!

Sunday 31 May 2009

Job Done, Tired And Emotional

What a great concert! Wonderful singing, a festliches spirit and a hugely appreciative audience. More reaction and comment to follow, but in the meantime suffice to say it was well worth it. many highlights - a rousing Hallelujah, and fantastic tempo in Surely and Will's "behold I tell you a mystery" was spine-tingling.

A lovely reception afterwards, speeches and wonderful food including vats of wurst and salad and a gigantic bowl of Leichlingen-grown strawberries.

Happiest man of the moment, though is Ian, our driver, who has been craving sausages for our entire trip and finally had his wish granted tucking into the frankfurters with great gusto. Well deserved too, I'd say!

Posted with LifeCast

Rehearsal Time: Concert -40 Mins

It's hot in here, and we're standing for the longest top and tale rehearsal known to man.

Standing? - man! A true marathon in store this afternoon and evening

Posted with LifeCast