Schütz Psalms, Gabrieli, Tavener Song for Athene, Parry I was glad

By W.L. Hoffmann (Canberra Times, Tuesday 7th September 1999)

Unusual setting creates sound drama

This was a choral program of more than usual interest, not only for the works themselves but because of the rather unusual and yet quite effective means by which the essential qualities of the music were realised.

The program opened with three 17th-century works: a Magnificat and two Psalms, by the great German composer of the early baroque, Heinrich Schütz. The Psalms were of special interest, written shortly after the composer's period in Venice and reflecting the ceremonial grandeur of the music of Giovanni Gabrieli. So it was an appropriate touch to replicate for Saturday night's performance the antiphonal effects, which were a notable feature of the music written at the time for St Mark's in Venice.

With the choir of nearly 100 voices at the front of the church, and a brass ensemble, percussion and organ in the loft at the rear, the juxtaposition of sound was quite dramatic, its effectiveness dependent, however, on where one was seated in the church.

The Psalm 100 was nicely paced, building in expression to a rousing projection of the concluding amens, while the more majestic Psalm 150 received a stirring performance, sung with suitable weight of vocal tone and the closing alleluias realised in vivid sound.

The conductor, Tobias Foskett, was placed in the centre of the church and generally maintained a firm control over his widely disposed forces.

The gentle quietude of Tavener's Song for Athene provided a contrast with its feeling of profound regret nicely realised in the performance.

The attractive program concluded on a jubilant note, with Herbert [sic.] Parry's ceremonial anthem I Was Glad, and then a spirited performance of John Rutter's setting of the Te Deum.