June 2009: Brahms and Britten

Brahms: German Requiem
Britten: Rejoice in the Lamb

St David's Church, Hele Road, Exeter, Saturday 6 June 2009, 7.30pm

We have been invited to sing these two wonderful works in France, with the Résonance Choir (they sang with us last season in Verdi's Requiem in Exeter Cathedral). Our first concert is in St David's Church, Exeter, and then we travel to France for two further performances in Rennes and Nantes.


BRINGING CLARITY TO BRAHMS

Source: David Batty

An abbreviated version appeared in the Express and Echo on the 12 June 2009.


The novelty of the Exeter Festival Chorus concert last Saturday evening at St David's Church was a performance of the German Requiem by Brahms accompanied by piano duet. The transcription of the original orchestral parts was by Brahms himself and indeed was used at an early performance of the work in Britain, at a private house in London in 1871. If one sometimes missed the colour and drama of the original orchestration such as at the climax of the second movement, there was benefit from the reduced accompaniment in allowing extra clarity and point to be heard in the choral singing, for instance the great shouts of "Freude" in that same movement. The EFC, conducted as usual by Nigel Perrin, sang strongly and passionately throughout, especially effective in the last two movements, though perhaps the well-known fourth ("Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen") could have been a little less forthright. The soloists were Leah Jackson and Quentin Hayes (especially commanding in his two solos) while Peter Adcock and Brendan Ashe were stirringly effective in their difficult piano duet parts – their playing of the tumultuous accompaniment in the penultimate movement was very impressive.

The first half of the concert comprised four contrasting unaccompanied anthems by Mendelssohn, Purcell, Monteverdi and Rachmaninov which allowed the EFC to show off its fine blend and balance. Particularly attractive was the performance of Britten's "Rejoice in the Lamb", where there was much character and spirit both in the singing of the choir (and its four soloists) and in the playing of Lucina Swain in the important organ accompaniment.