Saturday, June 02, 2007

An Evening of Sacred Music

It was a most memorable and spiritual evening with the Chor des Bayerischen Runkfunks (Bavarian Radio Chorus) under the direction of Peter Dijkstra. It was the first day of their Asian Premiere in Singapore this evening. Their programme this evening consisted of a range of German and Austrian sacred choral works from the renaissance to the romantic era, a huge contrast to their next performance which will consist of secular works held tomorrow afternoon.

This performance by the Chor des Bayerischen Runkfunks was in fact the first performance which caught my attention in this year's Singapore Arts Festival when the programme for the festival was unveiled. I went down to the immediately to grab the best seat available during early March, a good 3 months before the concert day. I had heard good reviews of the Chor des Bayerischen Runkfunks and it was a pleasant surprise when I got to know that they were coming down to town. And this evening, they put up one of the most charming concerts amongst all the vocal concerts I've ever been to in my life.

Such a sublime performance which I've experienced this wonderful evening. Please pardon me for my words on this performance for they only serve to undermine the true spiritual, musical and emotional value of their live performance in a concert hall, but I can't help but pen my them down!

The first half of their this evening consisted of choral works in the renaissance and baroque era. Two renaissance compositions, by Heinrich Schütz and Orlando di Lasso, were included alongside Bach. Tonight was the first time I was presented with a genre of works by Bach that I wasn't very familiar with - his motets (BWV 226 and 228). The performance of the former, Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf (BWV 226) touched me in a deepest manner. On the composition, despite it being a motet, Bach apparently couldn't help infusing this traditional form with the chorale style which he was so proficient in. Probably one of the most melodious motets which I've listened to. This motet is special in the fact that it was scored with an orchestral accompaniment. It was sung unaccompanied this evening, without the orchestral parts. I couldn't compare, since I've never heard of any renditions other than the one this evening. Probably due to the lack of orchestral colours, the purity and beauty of the unaccompanied human voices managed to shine forth and fill the concert hall this evening. Peter Dijkstra, amazingly young and talented for a conductor of this renowned choir, managed to draw a myriad of most captivating sounds from the singers. The melismatic passages in the first movement were executed with a sparkling quality by the musicians. One could really sense the shimmering brilliance of the melisma above the rest of the voices in the concert hall.

The second half featured sacred works by Mozart, Josef Gabriel Rheinberger, Anton Bruckner and Mendelssohn. Ave verum corpus (KV 618) by Mozart was a most captivating start to a second half. It is a very short work by Mozart towards the end of his life. This evening, the Chor des Bayerischen Runkfunks presented an unpretentious yet sensitive rendition of this work. The nuances were realised with such artistry but never in anyway exaggerated. How could I help being charmed by such solemn yet elegant beauty?

Two movements from a work by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger were sung this evening. I have to admit my ignorance at the existence of such a prolific German composer despite being familiar with his contemporaries, Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms. Drei geistlichen Gesängen (Op 69) of Rheinberger was presented tonight. I was immensely moved by their interpretation of the work. The purity of the voices infused a most special quality to the notes. Even during the extended pianissimo sections of the work, the purity of the each single vocal section was amazingly clear and possessed a fluid-like quality, like the unbroken flow of a peaceful river. I was drawn deep into that harmony at a certain point in that section, whereby I knew at that moment whereby the sounds doesn't have a beginning nor an end. Time simply didn't exist at that particular instant at all... The silky smooth expansion of the sound from a most tender pianissimo to a deep and powerful fortissimo within a single phrase of the work is still fresh in my mind.

At the end, the audiences tonight were presented with two oriental Chinese works as encores. They weren't familiar to me, but I could somehow make out words like water and mountains. At least I thought I heard those words and believed that they brought out that images well. I don't think it was them who didn't pronounced the Chinese words well, but more possibly because I myself am not proficient in that language. What a shame, when the language is supposed to be my mother tongue. After the end, the lady beside me commented that they sang the oriental pieces better than the Chinese. Oh well...

Despite the choir exhausting their encore pieces, the applause lasted even after the last musician has left the stage. All in all, it was a most rejuvenating evening of sacred music, an unaccompanied vocal performance of the highest artistic order. I certainly don't regret getting the most expensive seats for this performance...

*I apologise for the pathetic attempt to put my afterthoughts on such a sublime performance into words. The states that I were in during and after the live performance were indescribable. (probably the simplest but best way to put it)*


hautzeng said...

i'd wanted to catch the concert too. such a pity i missed them. but i'm glad you got so much out of it.

Anonymous said...

hey Jeff! =)

haha your blog never fails to amaze me with all its music content...

anyway, hope you guys are doing well! =D help me say hi to Mr Lim and Su Yin!!! =D

take care!!!

Natalie said...

Well said.