I am delighted that the Geelong Chorale are presenting Mozart’s Requiem for our August concert. An invitation to former choristers to join us has seen the choir swell to about 60 singers. We will also be joined by 4 excellent soloists and an orchestra of 21 instrumentalists to present Mozart’s final masterpiece. We are grateful for the kind support from The Robert Salzer Foundation.
Allister Cox OAM, conductor
Mozart’s final work, incomplete at his death in 1791, is a choral masterpiece whose genesis is shrouded in mystery, making it a fascinating and emotionally stirring work.
Teresa Ingrilli – Soprano
Syrah Torii – Mezzo soprano
Ben Glover – Tenor
Manfred Polanz – Bass
Allister Cox OAM – Conductor
Sunday 20th August 2023 at 2:30pm
Wesley Uniting Church, 100 Yarra Street, Geelong
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A Cultural High Point from Mozart
CONCERT: W A Mozart’s Requiem in D minor K626 presented by Geelong Chorale with orchestra, conducted by Allister Cox. Wesley Church, Yarra St. August 20 2023.
This weekend will be celebrated for a number of reasons: The world will remember Spain’s women winning a world cup despite loathing their coach. Australia will recall the time our entire nation fell in love with the Matildas despite their losing two games – and Geelong will remember this weekend as the biggest celebration of performing arts in our city’s history.
This was mostly centred on the dazzling opening of our multi-million dollar revamped arts centre that laid on wall-to-wall glamour, glitz and glossy performances all weekend.
Aside from this was the remarkable non-professional Blood Brothers musical in Belmont (see previous review) and then, on the final afternoon, came this once-in-a-generational performance in the city-centre’s Wesley Uniting Church.
Mozart’s Requiem exists as a challenging lyrical enigma that has puzzled musicians for centuries. lt was last performed in Geelong in 1991, in Christ Church, sung by the GAMA Singers conducted by their director Peter Sergeant. That group evolved into today’s Geelong Chorale, and it was their current director, Allister Cox OAM who took up the challenge this time.
Allister pulled together his most experienced and able vocal chorus, some 50 singers were squeezed into the church’s choir stalls; then he brought together an excellent 24-piece orchestra led by the delightful Patrycja Radzi-Stewart. He then engaged four excellent soloists in crystal-voiced soprano Teresa Ingrilli; the beautifully warm alto tones of Syrah Torii; the clear and precise diction of tenor Ben Glover and the full-bodied masculinity of bass Manfred Pohlenz.
Then he coached, rehearsed and persuaded them all into a single unit to create a memorable performance of Mozart’s most enigmatic musical work.
For this Requiem was unfinished when Mozart died in 1791 at the age of 35. It was completed by two others, Joseph Eybler and Franz Xaver Sussmayr at the request of Mozart’s widow Constanze, who needed the money. The finished work was delivered to Count Franz von Walsegg, who had commissioned the piece for a requiem service to commemorate the death of his wife Anna a year earlier. She had died at age 20.
This much we know, but then the story then becomes complicated. Just how much of this Requiem was Mozart’s original and how much was the work of the others? Was Mozart aware that he was dying and really creating a requiem for himself? Was he poisoned so that others, including von Walsegg, could pass it off as their own? Rumours have flown and grown over the centuries and that’s why the Geelong Chorale advertised this concert as ‘a choral masterpiece whose genesis is shrouded in mystery.’
None of the mysteries were solved by this concert; but a packed audience in a Geelong church was treated to a glorious, rare piece of sacred music performed by a highly accomplished group of musicians led by a masterful conductor.
Allister chose to precede the Requiem with two short motets written by Mozart, one of which, Veni Sancte Spiritus having been written when Wolfgang Amadeus was 12. This joyful singing piece involved everyone, Chorale, orchestra and soloists in its complex melodies, while the second piece, Quis Te Comprehendat K.V. anf110 was a simpler choral piece with elegant solo violin work from Patrycja.
Then followed the Requiem in full, without break or interruption – though personally, I did miss Allister’s always interesting introductions.
The Requiem comprised 16 different parts lasting in total for a little under an hour. Sung entirely in Latin, the composition covered the gamut of sacred music, from slow solemn funeral passages to the majesty, triumphs and joyful Alleluias of religious ceremonial works.
All were recognisable Mozart, by their intricate recurring musical patterns, linking soaring high points, textures and musical colours – and all were delivered with care and flair by the assembled Geelong performers.
At the end, the audience applause was warm, loud, long and highly appreciative.
For we audience members might not have fathomed which part was written by whom, and for whatever motivations.
But we were all aware that we had experienced a remarkable piece of music, in a concert that provided a piece of high-end culture to cap off an extraordinary weekend of performance.
– Colin Mockett