Mozart Requiem, Sculthorpe Sun Music

By Richard Windeyer (Canberra Times, Wednesday 27 June 2001, p22)

A balance Between Life and Death

ANU Choral Society, Mozart Requiem, Saturday, June 23, Llewellyn Hall

Mozart's Requiem sandwiched between Sculthorpe's Sun Music, performed without interval, one work melding into the other. The concept was to counter the dark tragic beauty of Mozart's celebration of death with the ideas of constancy and renewal associated with the sun.I was not convinced this concept represented the aural journey the audience was taken on. This might have been because the performance was missing the intended visual accompaniment to the Sculthorpe. However, I was not convinced that Sculthorpe's work was written with this circle of existence concept in mind. I was, however, taken with the performances. Christoph Moor directed the ANU Choral Society or SCUNA, in strong performances of both works.

Mozart's Requiem contains moments of heavenly beauty and moments of earthly tragedy. The performance satisfactorily realised both. I found the Introitus fractionally slow but this was well compensated for by the powerful Dies Irae. Similarly impressive was the Hosanna. I was disappointed with the soloists who were inconsistent and unevenly matched. Katrina Waters was strong as was Chris Berentson, the baritone, however, Sharon Olde and Richard Wade did not have the vocal strength to match them. With so many of the soloists' moments being ensembles, this imbalance between the soloists was exacerbated.

The orchestra supporting the choir was also impressive. Christoph Moor balanced the orchestral sound against the choir perfectly. There were some occasions when the strings could have been stronger but each time the leader, Josette Esquedin, could be heard leading by example and drawing more sound from the players around her. Sculthorpe's Sun Music is an opportunity for a choir to illustrate its diction without having to master any particular words. It was clear from this performance that SCUNA are well schooled as they performed this work with precision and clarity. Such attention to consonants and detail then paid off in the enunciation in the Mozart. The work calls for considerable freedom of performance within parameters defined by the conductor. It is an opportunity to explore the percussive potential of the human voice. This work evokes, in my mind, images of the sun setting over Kakadu National Park and hundreds of water birds of different types coming to roost. This was brilliantly captured in this performance and enthusiastically supported by accurate percussion work from the orchestra.