Saffron Walden Choral Society: Saffron Hall 13 November 2021
Ein Deutsches Requiem Johannes Brahms (1833-97)
A pin-drop silence followed the closing bars of this exquisite work. Then rapturous applause erupted. We celebrated the return of live music and were rewarded with a superb performance that will linger long in the memory.
The conductor, Janet Wheeler, chose perfect tempi throughout (so crucial in this work) and extracted every nuance from this demanding score with the determination and musicianship we have come to expect.
Brahms tests the stamina and resilience of the chorus, who sing throughout. From their very first entry, SWCS, singing in German, produced a beautifully rounded pianissimo. Indeed, the soft singing (never easy to sustain) was notable for its colour and control. As the work proceeds, the demands heighten, especially in the two mighty fugues. The finest choirs in the world are tested to the utmost in these sections. SWCS managed to retain their tonal quality, following their conductor with hawk-like concentration.
The orchestral accompaniment was provided by two pianos and timpani. This was a perfect combination. The pianists, Richard Carr and Simon Howat, played with such skill that they were hardly noticeable. The timps underline the drama of the score, which was brought to life imaginatively by Elsa Bradley.
The baritone soloist, Felix Kemp, was exemplary. His role demands a commanding presence and his sonorous, chocolaty tone rang out with great authority. The soprano, Miriam Allan, floated effortlessly, but allowed the tone to overblow at times.
This heartfelt performance by SWCS spoke eloquently, particularly at this time of remembrance. Janet Wheeler’s last concert with SWCS is on 19 March 2022. It will be the hottest ticket in town.