Sunday, 8 August 2010

SACRED CANTATAS / Musica Fiata / Review

Musica Fiata & La Capella Ducale
Esplanade Concert Hall
Thursday (5 August 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 7 August 2010.

Performance of baroque music in Singapore is as common as hen’s teeth. There is only one dedicated baroque group here, the amateur vocalists of Ab Oriente. Thus it was a massive shot to the arm when the Baroque in Singapore series arrived, presented by Musica Anima. Unfortunately, the cancellation of its last concert (due to volcanic ash fallout) and financial constraints dictated this to be the final concert for the year. But what a revelation it turned out to be.
Schütz & Scheidt
They look like twins, don't they?

Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) and Samuel Scheidt (1585-1672) were pre-eminent German composers predating Bach and Handel by a century. A selection of their sacred vocal music was performed with sympathy and authenticity by this Cologne-based ensemble of four singers and seven musicians.

The instrumental combination was unusual, with three trombones, violin, organ and dulzian (an early bassoon), led by Musica Fiata’s founder Roland Wilson (below) performing a zink, a curved pipe played like a recorder but with the timbre of a trumpet. The sound was quaint but intimate, never drowning out the singers in various combinations.

Scheidt’s Freue Dich, quoted from Proverbs of the Old Testament, but was surprisingly sensual, rejoicing in the graceful curves of a young wife’s body. The pleasure expressed, while not overt, was quietly ecstatic. The two tenors, Andreas Post and George Poplutz, also blended prettily in Schütz’s Anima Mea Liquefacta Est and O Quam Tu Pulchra Est, where a lover’s voice and beautiful form inspired feelings of a desirous kind.

Serious vibes was provided by bass Wolf Matthias Friedrich, whose sonorous entreaties in Attendite, Popule Meus, a prophet’s call to pay heed, was contrasted with a father’s anguish in Fili Mi, Absalon, both by Schütz. In the latter where King David mourns his treasonous son’s death, the pain expressed was palpable.
An expectant exultation coloured soprano Monika Mauch’s solo in Schütz’s Paratum Cor Meum, Deus, where her light and crystal-clear voice rose on angel’s wings high above the instrumental accompaniment. Simply beautiful.

For the final valedictory number, both instrumentalists and singers came face to face for Scheidt’s Warum Betrübst Du Dich, a rhetorical question answered by reassurance with faith in God, closing the evening’s fare on a high. In a musical year dominated by Chopin and Mahler, a rare treat was afforded in the company of Schütz and Scheidt.
This concert in the Baroque in Singapore series was presented by Music Anima Entertainment.

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