Our Christmas concert this year featured music from the Baroque period. The Magnificat by Pergolesi has been wrongly attributed to him for the past century, having in fact been composed by Francesco Durante (1684-1755), an Italian composer of mainly church music who was Pergolesi’s composition teacher. We will also sing a stunningly beautiful chorus from The Christmas Story by Heinrich Schütz. Schütz is considered to be the finest German composer prior to J. S. Bach, and his prolific output had an enormous influence on music in Germany. To finish the programme: Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria. Along with Bach and Handel, Vivaldi (1678-1741) ranks as one of the greatest baroque composers, with a prolific output of more than 500 concertos, 50 operas and many choral works, of which his Gloria RV 589, is probably the best known and loved. For this performance we were joined by soloists and a chamber ensemble led by Patrycja Radzi-Stewart.
Music by Pergolesi, Schütz and Vivaldi presented with instrumental accompaniment.
Saturday 9 December 2023 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
All Saints Anglican Church
Cnr Noble and Talbot Streets, Newtown Vic 3220
Chorale’s Glorious Baroque Concert
Gloria! Music to Celebrate Christmas The Geelong Chorale’s directed by Allister Cox, All Saints Church, Newtown Sunday December 9, 2023.
There’s one important word missing from this concert’s title. Baroque.
For this was Baroque Music to Celebrate Christmas, and as such Geelong’s Chorale was magnificent. Or should that be Magnificat, the classical 18th Century work that opened the event. Magnificat, literally meaning ‘The Song Of The Virgin Mary’, has been played and sung at this time of the year for centuries. There are many versions, instrumental and vocal, by numerous composers over the years and this concert opened with one of the more familiar by Pergolesi. Or was it? The Chorale’s musical director, Allister Cox, in his familiar informative introduction warned us before his choir had sung a note that the version had been wrongly attributed to Pergolesi for more than a century. It was actually composed by Francesco Durante (1684-1755), who was one of Pergolesi’s music teachers and nothing like as famous. But he would probably have been happy that his pupil’s name was bracketed with his work, Allister added, because it meant the piece was played much more often. And then the Chorale delivered an excellent version to illustrate the point. The enhanced 35-member Chorale – with 11 sopranos and an equal number of altos – sang each of the work’s familiar parts with delicacy when needed, precision throughout and celebratory gusto when called for. This Magnificat soared into the venue’s rafters confirming again the excellent acoustics built into Newtown’s All Saints Church.
Another aspect of this concert was that the Chorale had chosen not to invite guest vocalists to sing solo parts but to use Chorale members. Aside of this was the extra element that the works called for un unusual line-up of two soprano soloists, an alto, tenor and bass. So we audience were to hear the subtle differences between Fiona Squires’ clear and sharp soprano and Claire Elder’s warmer, softer delivery. Alex McAuley’s tenor tones blended perfectly with Alex Hunt’s bass, while Kathleen Rawson’s warm, lush alto added lustre throughout.
The Chorale was accompanied by a small orchestra led by Patrycja Radzi-Stewart with Jamie Parker joining her on violin, Edwina Sekine on viola, Ilana Idris on cello, Caroline Brenchley on bass and Kristine Mellens’s keyboard adding organ and harpsichord when needed.
Following that Magnificat opening, the Chorale presented a shorter and sweeter jewel of a piece by German composer Heinrich Schütz, the beautiful Chorus from his Christmas Story. Schütz is considered to be the finest German composer prior to J. S. Bach, and this elegant, joy-filled work showed why. It also allowed our Chorale – and conductor Allister – to display their expertise in delivering musical delicacies with polish and charm.
Following a short break to enlarge the orchestra with Stephen Moschner’s oboe and Britteny Ling’s trumpet, the afternoon’s final piece was the highly suitable Gloria! by Antonio Vivaldi. As Allister explained, Vivaldi, along with Bach and Handel, ranks as one of the greatest Baroque composers, with this piece, Gloria RV 589, probably among his best known and loved works Considering that he wrote more than 500 concertos and 50 operas, that’s high praise. But again, the Geelong Chorale with its soloists and guest musicians brought the work’s 11 passages to glorious life. This was the highly recognisable Vivaldi, with bright, colourful lead-ins to finely detailed passages, then intricately textured moments expanding to glowing crescendos – and all delivered vocally, joyfully and with a deal of Christmas finesse by our region’s premier choir.
At its conclusion, this concert’s neat and simple choice of familiar Baroque seasonal music drew long, warm, appreciative applause for every section and soloist from a highly-satisfied full-house audience.
– Colin Mockett