Maria Theresa Mass - Haydn
Requiem - Mozart
Review by John Cooper Green:
Written only eight years apart Haydn’s “Maria Theresa Mass” (1799) and Mozart’s “Requiem Mass” (1791) proved to be an inspired choice of works for the Penrith Singers Concert in St. Andrew’s Church last Sunday evening. Chorus, soloists and orchestra were on superb form and gave an outstanding concert under the baton of Colin Marston, the conductor. Written between his two great oratorios “Creation” and “Seasons”, the “Maria Theresa Mass” is not as well known as some of his other masses, such as “The Nelson” and “Mass in the time of War”, but the convincing performance on Sunday evening would lead many to want to hear the work again.
Like so much of Haydn’s writing, the work is full of innovative ideas which maintain the listener’s interest even in the “Credo” section which is quite often, in the hands of other composers, a very dull part of the mass. The choir was well up to the all the musical contrasts of dynamics and texture and throughout the evening there was an ideal balance between orchestra and choir.
The excellent quartet of soloists, who blended so well together, were heard sometimes in dialogue with the choir, sometimes as a group and sometimes as soloists. The soprano Emma Peaurt has a voice of great power and she allowed herself to soar above the chorus and fill the church with a glorious sound. The richness of Audrey McKirdy’s mezzo-soprano was ideally suited to these works and the tenor Richard Pollock seemed to sing Haydn and Mozart’s difficult high vocal line with effortless ease. We all wait for that dramatic moment in the “Requiem” when the trombone and bass start the “Tuba Mirum”. Adam Marsden’s wonderfully mellifluous bass voice and Graham Harris’s confident trombone solo would make this a high point for many in the audience. Indeed for me there were many high points in this concert; a most beautiful “Benedictus” in the Haydn Mass, the dramatic opening of the “Agnus Dei” which is quite unexpected, an exciting and dramatic “Dies Irae” in the “Requiem” and an equally forceful and rhythmic “Rex Tremendae”. The chorus is to be commended on their incisive and rhythmic singing, the clarity of their diction and vocal lines and the warmth of tone in many sections. All this was supported an equally impressive orchestra under the leadership of Susan Johnson.
Colin Marston is to be congratulated on his control of all these forces and for bringing a memorable concert to Penrith.