Review: Perth Symphonic Chorus, “Magnificent Bach” ⋅
Winthrop Hall, May 18 ⋅
Review by Leon Levy ⋅
On an unusually busy choral weekend the Perth Symphony Chorus was in competition with both Voyces and WASO Chorus as well as – perhaps on a less elevated level – the unfolding Federal election count. Those audience members who turned up in a jubilant or despondent frame of mind would have found spiritual sustenance to support either mood; with Bach, Vivaldi and Dr Margaret Pride and her forces we were in the best of hands.
Bach dominated, as suggested by the title of the concert “Magnificent Bach”; but if this was intended to establish his Magnificat in D major BWV 243 as the focus of the evening, it was something of a misnomer. As the opening work, it was hampered in the first instance by a chilly Winthrop Hall that was not filled to capacity and latecomers who ought to have been led unobtrusively to the vacant seats further back.
The performance was prefaced by a brief but helpful introduction given by Dr Pride, illustrated by the musicians. The hall acoustic was sympathetic to the orchestra but had the choir sounding unexpectedly subdued. By the fourth verse ‘Omnes Generationes’ however, the forces were coming into balance and ‘Sicut locatus est’ was marked by firm singing and full tone. Similarly the challenges of the closing ‘Gloria’, before it reaches its jubilant and joyous home run, were finely controlled. The commendable idea of drawing soloists from within the chorus was not wholly successful. What no doubt worked well in a rehearsal studio did not readily command the comparatively vast spaces of Winthrop Hall, although alto Claire Lane and bass Brett Peart were especially successful in getting into their vocal stride and giving pleasure in the process.
Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 4 in G major BWV 1049 was given in tribute to Adrian Maydwell, musician and doctor, who during the week had tragically lost his life in an accident. A more eloquent salute than that provided by Bach, soloists Paul Wright (violin) and Emily Clements and Laura van Rijn on flute and the Perth Baroque Orchestra could hardly be imagined. The performance, perfectly judged and executed, featured glorious interplay between the soloists.
In terms of impact, it was Vivaldi’s Gloria that proved to be the choral highlight of the evening. This time the somewhat recessed choral sound cleared quickly to give way to wholly engaged and expressive singing. Claire Lane once again gave particular pleasure, while in ‘Domine Deus’, the extended solo part provided soprano Hyoshin Kang with an opportunity to settle into her role and perhaps be inspired by the exquisite oboe playing of Anna Rodger. In ‘Quoniam tu solus Sanctus’ the choir matched the vibrant orchestral opening, while in the concluding ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ the energy and clarity of the choral lines supported by Jenny Coleman’s clarion trumpet, brought the work to a stirring conclusion.
Dr Pride brings distinction to whatever she and her collaborators tackle. On this occasion Wright and the Perth Baroque Orchestra provided a golden thread throughout the evening which was as much their achievement as anyone else’s.