Choir captures the mature Dvořák

By W. L. Hoffmann (Canberra Times, Wednesday October 20, 2004)

Dvořák: Mass in D & Howells: Requiem. ANU Choral Society, conducted by Jonathan Powles. St Andrew's Church, October 16.

THIS rewarding choral concert offered a unique opportunity to hear and enjoy Dvořák's Mass in D, an exceedingly fine work of his maturity and his only setting of the mass. It was composed to a commission during 1887, when he was at the threshold of the final years of his creative life.

It is not conceived on a grand scale, but is music of a warm intimacy and a deep sincerity, using the simplest of means - a choir with four soloists and organ accompaniment. Happily, it received a realisation on this occasion that effectively balanced moments of almost passionate expression with an underlying feeling of a warm and heartfelt lyricism.

The joyous opening of the Gloria was confidently projected, while the variations of expression in the demanding Credo were nicely shaded and balanced. And (sic) the tonal shading in the lovely Donna Nobis Pacem brought the performance to a quite moving conclusion.

The four soloists- Catriona DeVere (soprano), Jenny Sawer (mezzo), Michael Honeyman (tenor) and Chris Berensten (baritone) were a pleasingly balanced quartet, while the organ accompaniment provided by Peter Young was, as always, excellently modulated and supportive.

The second work was the Requiem by the English composer of the mid-20th century, Herbert Howells. This non-liturgical six-movement work is music of intense feeling, and being for a capella choir with soloists it makes considerable demands on the performers. But again singers and conductor rose to the challenge to provide another satisfying realisation that in its own but very different way made an excellent foil for Dvořák.